Jerk vendors eager for Dragon Bay hotel reopening

BY KIMONE FRANCIS Observer staff reporter francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, February 05, 2017

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BOSTON jerk vendors in east Portland are waiting with bated breath for the reopening of the Dragon Bay hotel where reconstruction is set to begin this year.


The hotel is set to be reconstructed to the tune of US$100 million by Sandals Resorts International. This will result in a 157-suite, six-star, boutique family resort when completed.


Operators at Boston Jerk Centre told the Jamaica Observer North East last Tuesday that the decision to reopen could not have come soon enough.


"I can’t remember how long Dragon Bay has been closed but it had been one of the biggest resort areas in Portland. It had brought in so many tourists in this area over the years. With its closure for the last couple of years things have slowed in Boston. So with the reopening, from what I read and understand, it is going to be bigger than it used to be, so Boston on a whole will benefit," operator of the Gurley Aston Wine Bar and Grill, Rhone Bennett, said.


He explained that the local food industry, nightclubs and spots depended heavily on the once-pulsating hotel, and said that he is hoping with the reopening that things will pick up again.


"The only way we won’t benefit is unless the new owners change the thing dramatically to make it that we don’t see the tourists, as it has been in some other areas," Bennett stated.


He theorised, too, that a project of this magnitude should have a major impact on residents, for whom he believes jobs will be created.


"I don’t know how many, but a lot of the wives will get jobs as long as they are trained properly. The builders and local tradesmen will also benefit from the development. Let us hope also, that when it is finished the government will look to put a proper system in place as it relates to (police for) tourists, to prevent harassment. But overall we are looking forward to Dragon Bay and it should be a success," the businessman said.


Another jerk vendor, who gave his name as David Atkinson, said his experience with Dragon Bay was a personal one, as he landed his first job at the hotel when he was 17 years old.


"It used to benefit me years ago before it lock down. After that, it look like the people dem start go Ochi (Ocho Rios) so, yuh know, we get less customers. When Dragon Bay inna form we get everybody. Mi well want it come back. Mi glad seh it a open back because that mean say whole heap of investments a go come a Portland. We a go give Ochi a beaten and the rest of them, because the people them love Portland. So, with Dragon Bay and Fern Hill we can’t lose," Atkinson, who has been a jerk vendor for 33 years, said.


"As Dragon Bay open back Boston gone a lead again Observer. A weh yaah seh man? We deh ya a bleach pon it. A big, big thing fi Portie man, big thing. Whole heap of people a guh start forward back believe me," another vendor added.


Last month, Sandals and ATL Group Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Adam Stewart disclosed that the hotel’s reconstruction and reopening is a result of a commitment made by the current Andrew Holness-led administration with regards to the Ian Fleming International Airport.


"Dragon Bay has been a long time in coming. The reason we’re doing it is a commitment made by the prime minister and Minister [Daryl] Vaz to make the Ian Fleming International Airport truly accessible to commercial jet aircraft. That was the commitment that we needed to make Portland accessible and, true to our word, now that that project is happening, Dragon Bay will happen," Stewart said.


The Sandals Group formally acquired Dragon Bay Beach Resort on March 22, 2002 from the former owners, Albert Abela Corporation and SSI Cayman Limited. However, poor roads and the inadequacy of the Ken Jones Aerodrome had resulted in Sandals placing a hold on the development of the property.


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