The Government made an about-turn last night on plans to house beach concessions in shipping containers on Shelly Bay Beach.
Jamahl Simmons, the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, confirmed that the Bermuda Tourism Authority plans for Shelly Bay had been scrapped.
Mr Simmons said “a concession of some sort” would be present at the beach, which would also be used for “occasional events”.
He added: “We have also embraced the concept, which was already part of what we were trying to do, in terms of handicapped and physically challenged access.”
Mr Simmons said that the Government had been focused on a plan for the Hamilton Parish beach that “reflects the community”.
He added: “We’re the ones that will make the final decision. We are listening and we are paying attention.”
Kevin Dallas, chief executive at the BTA, said the news that the quango’s plan for Shelly Bay had been scrapped did not come as a shock.
He added: “This has been an extended community debate. No turn in that discussion is a particular surprise.”
Mr Dallas said that he was also not surprised that the BTA’s plan for the beach had met with opposition from some local residents.
He explained: “We always expect, in any plan, there will be people who will be for something and against something.
“Certainly, when you are trying to do something different, you expect a lot of resistance to that.”
Mr Dallas said that last night’s event at Shelly Bay was designed to allow potential concession operators to show off their offerings.
He added: “I think they’ve really stepped up to the plate to deliver.”
Residents last night still had mixed views on the BTA’s plan.
Shanette Robinson, a regular visitor to Shelly Bay, said that she was in favour of concessions at the beach.
She explained: “It’s been a long time since we have had any restaurants or anything down here, so it would be good for the tourists and also the public.”
She said that she liked the convenience of not having to bring food and drinks from home, as well being given the chance to support local vendors.
Ms Robinson said she was also not opposed to the use of shipping containers to house the concessions as long as they were not on the beach.
Helene Dill said she lived within walking distance, but was against the use of shipping containers to house retail outlets on the beach.
She added that there could be value in a concession located nearby.
Ms Dill explained: “There are actually no restaurants in the area. We just need to have it in a different location.”
The BTA unveiled its “Beach Economy Vision” proposals for five beaches, including Shelly Bay, in June.
Four finalists in a tender process to operate at the beach — three food vendors and a beach and boat rental business — took part in last night’s event.
Lorenzo Simmons, owner of Tarzan Boat and Beach Equipment Rentals and a Hamilton Parish resident, said that he was interested in bringing a “fun experience” to Shelly Bay.
Mr Simmons said his business was about trying to offer convenience to beachgoers.
He added: “I’m not going to tell you that you can’t have this here, or this is my designated area.”
Mr Simmons said he felt his business could help to attract more visitors to the beach and “enhance the community”.
LaVerne Furbert, one of the organisers of a group opposed to the BTA’s plan for the beach, said that she felt last night’s event was not needed.
Ms Furbert explained: “I think it’s an unnecessary expense to the taxpayer.”
She said the group was not opposed to having a single lunchwagon above the beach.
Ms Furbert said she viewed the announcement that shipping containers would not be used on the beach as a victory “for the people”.