Nearly two years after Hurricane Matthew ravaged Grand Bahama and forced the Grand Lucayan resort to close, the effects of that hurricane linger around the property.
While it sits in the front of rich aquamarine and cobalt waters, it remains in a state of decay.
Lighthouse Pointe was the only part of the three-piece strip to reopen after the storm. Breaker’s Cay and Memories remain shuttered.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis and his near 40-member delegation saw firsthand the devastation Matthew inflicted on the property.
While the grass and foliage are well-manicured, Breaker’s Cay and Memories will need significant work.
Cinder blocks on the side of buildings are exposed.
The ceiling near the Willy Broadleaf buffet is exposed, showing rusted beams, torn sheet rock and cinder blocks.
The buffet, a large space that catered to hundreds of guests every day when Breaker’s Cay was open, was littered with sand in some quarters.
The room is perfectly staged with chairs and desks, but no guests.
The pool in front of Breaker’s Cay, once a haven for tourists, is filled with what looks like dark swamp water.
An employee was attempting to clean up the pool to no avail.
The pool snakes from one end of Breaker’s Cay to the Chinese restaurant, China Cafe.
The pool in front of Memories is worse. It has no water, except putrid puddles of dirty rain water and weeds growing at its bottom.
Minnis’ delegation walked the length of the area, some aghast at the sights.
Minister of Works Desmond Bannister and Central Grand Bahama MP Iram Lewis wore masks over their mouths when they entered the interior of Memories and Breaker’s Cay.
One minister asked Lewis why he was wearing the mask and if he was afraid of mold.
Lewis responded, “Yes, I am. See the mold there.” He then pointed at brown spots on the ceiling.
In the Memories casino, the air conditioning is working but the room smells musty. At the entrance of the lobby of Memories, old beams covered in seaweed lay forgotten.
But the prime minister took it in stride.
After touring Memories and Breaker’s Cay, he headed to Lighthouse Pointe for lunch.
The lunchroom, a large area, faces the beach, but smells like a wet rug.
Glass sliding doors surround the room.
Outside, dozens of tourists staying at the hotel were seemingly enjoying summer. They were dancing to soca, reggae and rap music, sipping martinis, rum punches and lounging in the pool.
When the delegation toured Lighthouse Pointe, the rooms were clean and spacious.
“Look how good this looks, Travis,” Minnis remarked.
Minnis later announced that his government has signed a sales agreement with Hutchison Whampoa to purchase the resort for $65 million.
He said the government made a down payment of $10 million and will pay the remaining $55 million in installments, but he declined to say where the government would get the money from or how long the payments would last.
When Minnis toured nearby Port Lucaya, vendors appeared elated when he shared the news.
Sylvia Larimore Major, who has been a straw vendor in Port Lucaya for 18 years, embraced Minnis when he moved through the stalls.
Once he shared the news with her, she smiled from ear to ear.
“I thank God for it,” she said, as Minnis stood behind her.
“A lot of people in The Bahamas are saying that’s the wrong move, but we are wearing the hard shoes. We are the ones who have to pay the bills and now that he purchased that it gives us a chance to make money and put people to work.
“That’s our hotel now. The Grand Bahamian hotel now.”
Larimore Major said since the hotel closed, business has been poor.
“Yesterday, I made $30,” she said.
“Today we have boats (cruise ships) in and I haven’t hit $50 yet. So anything is better than nothing.”
When asked how business was when the resort was open, she said, “When the hotel was open I had two shifts. I had a morning shift and I had an evening shift.
“Because the hotel closed, I only have one shift. I can’t afford to have two shifts.”
Another vendor named Mike Kelly said this was “good news.”
“It will be a boost to the economy,” he said.
Additionally, vendor Eldora Dillet said she feels “good about the news”.
“I hope it’s going to be opened because if Memories opens we will have a flow of tourists,” she said.
Antoinette Smith said she made $8 yesterday and that she had to spend that on lunch.
Smith, a vendor, was also excited by the news.
“It’s nice to know that the government has purchased the hotel so that I can feed and put my child through school and for us as entrepreneurs to make money,” Smith said.
“It was really rough.
“At least we know that hope is there.
“See, the people on the outside complaining, they are not a vendor. They are not a cab driver. They don’t know what it’s like. So when I heard that the government was buying, I was all for it because I’m tired of the tourists coming and asking, ‘Oh, what happened to the hotel?’
“Now I know I can put bread on the table for my family and for me.’”
Education: College of The Bahamas, English