Almond hopes crushed
EMPLOYEES?of Almond Beach Village became emotional yesterday as word spread that the St Peter hotel would be closing its doors at monthend.
Some of them gathered outside the conference room where the special shareholders’ meeting was being held, debating the decision after hearing deputy chairman of Almond Gervase Warner announce the closure.
Many expressed shock at the short notice.
Doreen Mottley, who worked at Almond since its inception, fought back tears as she reminisced about the hotel.
“We got husbands and wives that work here; brothers and sisters that work here; boyfriends and girlfriends who live in a house together that work here. So what you are doing is sending home a whole household.”
Looking around the hotel, she added:?“We used to call this the blood, sweat and tears, because we struggled to build this to what it is today. This hit like a hurricane . . . . This is like [Tropical Storm] Tomas. When the staff hear this, a lot of tears are going to fall,” she said, shaking her head.
The shop steward lamented: “I have to go out there and tell my colleagues.
I don’t feel a lot of them are looking to hear this news. This will be shocking!”
She fondly recalled when the hotel opened its doors.
“The morning we opened on November 1, 1994, Mr [Ralph] Taylor said he wanted us to greet the guests as they came into the lobby. Everyone of us that worked that night stayed on.”
Guests, she said, would be sad to hear the hotel was closing.
“We have a British guest who just lost his wife, and he is to come here in September to bring her ashes to Barbados. What are we going to tell him? That there is no Almond Beach Village to come to, and have your memories of your wife?”
Human resources manager Marsha Constantine-Alleyne also spoke about the family atmosphere which she said exists at the hotel up to this day. She pointed out that most of the employees had been there for over 15 years.
“Today we just saw a great dream being crushed without an opportunity to try to rebuild that dream. There are so many employees here who planted the grass you are standing on and painted the buildings around here.
So this is a very emotional time right now for all of us.”
As they filed out of the four-hour meeting, some shareholders also expressed disappointment over the closure of the hotel.
Business executive Larry Tatem was hoping that other options would be explored.
“You have to take all factors into consideration before you do it. I believe that you have to consider the responsibility of the people who own the place and also the workers. You need to have more time to look at the other options before you make a definitive decision to close the place down.”
A clearly upset George Holder, quantity surveyor of Design Collaborative, said he was taken aback by the announcement.
“I was surprised that the meeting was called to discuss the closure of the hotel.
I thought we were going to discuss the way forward – if there are possibilities, what the possibilities are and perhaps what the shareholders can do, and what management is proposing to do. But it seems as though we were met with a fait accompli.”
Nello Bynoe, retired executive manager of Almond, who is also a shareholder, expressed hope that a solution would be arrived at for the financially troubled hotel.
“Right now we can’t point fingers.
We have to find a solution. This is a difficult day for us, and we have to go home and come back again.
“There are a number of possibilities; but I think a big plus to the situation is that you have the Barbados Workers’ Union [which] is willing to work with the staff and everybody. We need to hold off for a little bit.
“It is not everything that is cut and dry – that you close out and run. For me as a founding father this hurts.”
However, one of the directors, Paul Altman, said the closure “has to happen”, but the hotel “has to continue”.
“The closure has to happen for the place to be refurbished anyhow.
My best wish is that the closure, whether it remains as business as usual or changes hands, it has to be fixed and then reopened.
“I don’t believe any sensible set of people, I don’t want to say whoever they are, would allow this place to close. From a business point of view you have investors and from the other point of view you have to recognize the importance of the people who work here, and it must continue.”