A joke he made about three years ago is a reality today.
Lionel Eastmond, 35, and three other business partners are the proud owners of a new entertainment business at the former Ocean Park facility in Balls, Christ Church.
Last year they acquired the property through a lease – with an option to purchase – and have started operating PLAE (Play, Lounge, Advertise, Entertain) – a family-oriented recreational facility.
Eastmond, the managing director, told the BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY that he’d been impressed with the old Ocean Park in its prime. He lived three minutes away and passed by every day.
“It had great potential,” he said. “It was one of the few attractions that a Barbadian could boast was one of the best in the Caribbean.
“Unfortunately about four years ago it closed and I was overseas on training. When I came back in 2010 and drove past I could see that it was closed and overrun by vegetation. I was having a conversation and I jokingly said ‘why not let’s take it over, run it and bring it to some standard of what it was before’. And that joke turned into a realization.”
It took two years for Eastmond and his partners to negotiate the lease. He admitted that it was not an easy process and he was still cementing his vision.
“It was difficult in first of all finding the owners, getting them to agree to lease the property with a potential sale, finding the investment partners, a place to fund it and getting the right people associated with the project that shared the vision to make it happen,” he recalled.
He said though, Fund Access, the micro-business lender, was a major source of help.
“They gave a lot of courses to make us fundamentally sound and point us in the right direction for the loan,” he added. “On approaching Fund Access is where the seriousness came into play of how to structure and proceed.”
It was in February 2012 that they finally got hands on the 18-acre property. So far, the group of businesspeople have spent about $300 000 to revive the entertainment facility.
PLAE currently employs eight people, and close to 30 are expected to find employment once all the services are introduced. The company currently features a bar and lounge, restaurant, an 18-hole alternate energy-power mini golf course and a play park.
Cut energy costs
The company has had to take measures to cut high operational costs. Eastmond said: “We are incorporating solar and that is taking away a big trunk of our light bill. Those big lights that we have are 1 000 watt bulbs and we have 12 of those.
“We are looking to use solar throughout the entire operation because we know that electricity is one of the major operational costs. We are not water-based so we are not too concerned with that. Our big concern is the energy side.”
He said the company was currently geared toward locals but would eventually be tapping into the tourist market.
Describing the location as multifaceted, Eastmond said they would also be hosting various functions including weddings, birthday parties, Crop Over events, as well as other seasonal functions.
“On a whole, in the business environment right now people are looking for deals. Everybody is looking for good price points. If it is a novelty or treat and expensive they will do it once [but] if it is something that is reasonably priced and they can come every weekend or every day and feel homely they will come and that is what we are trying to do,” he said.
Eastmond said given the fact that PLAE was located in a heavily trafficked area, it had space for large events, and with room for ample parking it was “the ideal location” for family fun activities and parties. PLAE has been opened for business since December 2012. Eastmond said so far the reception had been very good.
“We have been receiving bookings and enquiries quite regularly. We have seen a lot of requests for night parties,” he said.
Eastmond, who is also a chef, described the business venture as a big step for him but said he did not question his decision.