By JADE RUSSELL
Tribune Staff Reporter
ACCESS to the beach near the Melia Hotel has been restricted, prompting fear from some water sports operators as to how they will be able to continue their businesses.
A licensed jet ski operator told The Tribune yesterday that he, along with other operators, was told that the eastern end of the Melia beach would be closed to them. The operator claimed the decision came from Baha Mar and authorities.
However, he said after being harassed by hotel security and police on the beach, eventually a “temporary solution” was arrived at.
“We got a temporary solution until further notice and decision from officials from the port department, they sent word for us to work at an area that is suitable for us and still in walking distance from the guests,” said the jet ski operator, who wished to remain anonymous.
The experienced water sports operator of 25 years said the eastern end of the beach was never closed.
“They come now to the eastern end of Melia where they want us to move and shut down,” he said.
The operator said a meeting was held by Berne Wright, the acting port controller of the Port Authority, Berne Wright.
“They had a meeting without notice to the operators because I was not aware of it and many other operators weren’t aware of it. They had a meeting and came this morning and said the beach is shut down,” he said. “The Melia water park is about 50 feet away from the construction zone that is in full operation. Guests are still allowed to walk on the beach, still allowed to relax on the beach. Everything is in full operation except for the water sports operators.”
When asked if the water sports operators were conducting business on Melia’s property, he said “no” they were only operating from the water edge.
According to the law, all beaches in The Bahamas are considered public property from the water to the high water mark.
“By law, we have ten feet off the high water mark, so we operate just above that,” he said. “When the guests come down and they ask, we tell them we are nowhere affiliated with the hotel.”
The jet ski operator said it was “disrespectful” to be harassed by hotel security. He added the security even stopped the tourists from walking down to the operators.
“I think it’s unprofessional to us as business license owners who just came out of COVID - paying $1,000 for a licence to licence our jet ski, insure our jet skis, and paying national insurance and everything to get bullied and disrespected like that. Made us look like criminals on the beach with a policeman coming at us and the hotel security stopping the guests.”
Asked where operators were placed temporarily by officials, he said they are on the Baha Mar side of the beach now.
When The Tribune contacted Baha Mar, they said the access to the beach has been restricted.
“As the staged demolition of the Melia is progressing, access to the beach directly connected to the property has been restricted due to safety precautions. The Bahamas Port Authority has been notified and is managing the water sports operators in the area,” Baha Mar’s statement said.
In February 2021, the Melia Nassau Beach resort closed its doors for two years to undergo renovations.
However, in July, Baha Mar’s owner sought to completely demolish the former Melia Nassau Beach Resort before the 2023 winter tourism season started. The demolition came months after Baha Mar’s president, Graeme Davis, said plans to redevelop the Melia resort would be unveiled imminently.