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~ Restaurants to appeal court decision ~

MARIGOT—The temporary occupation permits AOTs for two long-standing restaurants on Pinel Island, Karibuni and Yellow Beach, have been terminated as of June 22, 2022 according to a decision handed down by the administrative court in St. Martin on April 20, and as reported by Journal 97150.

The decision throws into doubt the future of the island as a popular tourism destination, not to mention the impact this will have on businesses that have been on the island for the past 30 years, the potential loss of around 30 jobs and livelihoods of the Pinel ferry captains.

In 2019 Conservatoire du Littoral intended to renew temporary occupation permits in the public domain for a period of nine years and launched a call for tenders for operation of a souvenir store and two restaurants, divided into three lots.

For the operation of the souvenir store, only one candidate responded to the call for tenders and was selected. Regarding the two lots for the restaurants there were three candidates that submitted bids. These included the two restaurants that were already there for decades and a third business SNC Pinel that occupied the space in the centre of the island.

The two lots were awarded to Karibuni and Yellow Beach that subsequently signed a temporary occupation agreement with Conservatoire on October 22, 2019. SNC Pinel was disqualified and launched a legal procedure, requesting the cancellation of the agreements, arguing that the competitive bidding procedure was not respected, that criteria Conservatoire du Littoral had itself imposed were not respected and that the two selected candidates did not meet some of the required criteria.

Each of these criteria and sub-criteria imposed on the candidates was evaluated by a score. The Court ruled that the scores attributed to each of the criteria did not correspond to what had been established by the Conservatoire itself and stated in its ruling:

“As a result, it follows that Conservatoire du Littoral did not follow the self-imposed procedure for selecting candidates and did not ensure equal treatment of all competitors. The applicant company (SNC Pinel) is therefore entitled to maintain that these irregularities have harmed it in a sufficiently direct and certain manner.”

And in its decisions taken April 20 following the hearing of March 31, when this case was judged, the Tribunal decided on the termination of these two agreements signed with the Karibuni and Yellow Beach after a period of two months from the notification of the judgment, that is to say June 22, 2022. Only the zone of the 50 geometric steps was retroceded to the Conservatoire du Littoral. It should also be noted that the restaurants are not included in the domain of the Nature Reserve which only manages the maritime domain.

Contacted Tuesday, Erik Clement, owner of Karibuni Restaurant, told The Daily Herald the restaurants will appeal the court decision, a process that will at least give the restaurants breathing space to continue operating, knowing how slow the system works.

“It’s a harsh decision, not about us although we are victims but about what seems to have been irregularities in the Conservatoire’s procedures,” Clement explained. “Hopefully the court in the end will understand our position. It has taken us five years to come back after Hurricane Irma and the pandemic, and now are businesses are under threat again. So, yes, I am afraid but at the same time confident that we did everything that was required of us. I’m afraid that we are victims of a system that went wrong.”

Clement said both restaurants had made considerable investments to meet the “green” criteria required by Conservatoire du Littoral, and in Karibuni’s case 150,000 euros was spent on solar panels. He added up to 45 jobs on the island are under threat as well as the tourism activity.

“I can’t imagine they (conservatoire) will destroy the restaurants and just have nothing there. I have had my business there for 32 years. It’s my passion. We have always worked closely with the tourism office to promote the island. Last week we hosted Miss France here.”

He further explained that his last temporary occupation permit was valid only for two years. “The call for tenders was relaunched again because of changes that were implemented by Conservatoire. These were ecological and environmental changes which is all good for nature, and why we had to do so much to comply, including pinpointing areas where we could lessen the impact on the environment. We did a lot to reduce our footprint and save energy. In fact, I think we can be a model for other restaurants.”

A Conservatoire du Littoral representative declined to comment on the situation.

Bron: Daily Herald

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