Restaurateur Disenchanted with Government
Successful restaurateur Maurico Thomas was at the site of his future restaurant in the town of St. George’s last week, located where the old George and Dragon used to be, alongside the construction manager of the site.
When the two got there, a gentleman from the Department of Planning was there waiting for them and informed them that, through an administrative error no fault of Mr. Thomas’, work must immediately stop on the site until the error is rectified.
“ There used to be a porch [at this building] that was in massively bad condition, so we took it down, only to find out later that it has to be in front of the building, because it’s a UNESCO heritage site,” Mr. Thomas said.
A very seasoned businessman and restaurateur, Mr. Thomas feels that he and the investors are trying to bring something new into the town of St. George’s, something that he does not believe happens too often, only to find out that their progress must cease. That, for him, is really hard to take.
“ I was involved in another investment group a couple of years ago, with a medical practice in Hamilton and the same thing happened [as happened here],” he said. “ Someone asked me to resubmit paperwork due to an administrative error.”
“ This error eventually led to us being turned down and we were prevented from operating the medical practice,” Mr. Thomas continued. “ It’s very hard to actually have lived that experience and [to this date] not have anybody come and apologize to us.”
From his experience, four major things have happened to his businesses under a PLP administration, beginning about 20 years ago, when they were newly in power for the first time, when they were told that non-Bermudians could no longer deliver food.
“ It cost us around $400 thousand to sort that situation out, plus we lost money from not being able to deliver,” he explained.
When the pandemic first took the island by storm, Mr. Thomas and his managers vowed to do everything they could to stay open and keep as many of their staff employed as possible. According to him, they even found a way to create 90 more jobs on the island. A year and a half and multiple meetings with the Ministry of Labour later and he has not received any feedback on how to bring those 90 new jobs into fruition.
With everything that has happened throughout the years, at this point in time, Mr. Thomas feels he is too old to be going around and around with the government. As a result, he would like to see someone else try and invest in the St. George’s restaurant he planned to take over.
“ We’ve spent money to buy the things, we’re renovating the buildings, we’ve been working hard to hire new people, all for nothing,” he said. “ The Government of the day always talks about needing both local and foreign investment, and no one has come to us . .
. I should take whatever money I have earned, go somewhere else and enjoy, because I can not do it here. I am one of the largest black entrepreneurs here and I am treated poorly by a ‘black’ government. Enough is enough. Why should I keep doing this?”
According to Mr. Thomas, the only time people in power listen to him even a little is when he makes a grandiose public statement. From his experiences and talks with other entrepreneurs, they share his sentiments.
The St. George’s restaurant was a few months away from opening before their progress was forcibly halted. Mr. Thomas says he has the support of the Mayor of St. George’s as well as the residents. That support, however, does not and cannot look like a yet-to-open eatery being shut down.
“ Bermuda does not feel like it is open for business right now,” he said. “ It’s wrong, it’s inappropriate and it’s not easy and I know that I speak for many . . . the beaches here are really beautiful, but being self-employed, [not so much].”
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Photo Courtesy of RG