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Restaurant owner: exhaust fan row jeopardises dozens of jobs

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The Pub on the Square with the exhaust fan painted white. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The future of a proposed restaurant that could create at least 45 jobs hangs in the balance after a planning application for the installation of an exhaust fan was refused.

The Development Applications Board said a retroactive application for Marico Thomas’s Pub on the Square in St George — located in a Grade 2 listed building — was refused on the basis of the fan’s proximity to a window and because the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service was not given the opportunity to formally review the development.

It was also determined that the fan “poses significant harm to the character, appearance and fabric of the building, and is damaging to the character and appearance of the Historic Protection Area and World Heritage Site”.

The unauthorised exhaust fan previously drew complaints from the St George’s Preservation Society. While the exhaust fan remains on the building, it has since been painted white to blend in with the roof.

The extractor fan on the Pub on the Square before it was painted white. (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Mr Thomas, the restaurateur behind FoodHub and Four Star Pizza, said if the longstanding dispute over the fan for the King’s Square business was not resolved soon, he would be forced to pull the plug on the entire project.

Businessman Marico Thomas (Photograph supplied)

According to the DAB minutes, a technical officer presented the retroactive application for a white-painted exhaust fan with a recommendation to refuse.

It said: “The board member noted that while the siting of the hood does meet the minimum height requirements, the location of the fan may be a code violation given its proximity to the nearest window.

“Given that the development was built retroactively, the member confirmed that BFRS was not given the opportunity to formally review this development.”

It said that BFRS compliance is required for building permit decisions.

It added that, in contravention of the Planning Act 1974, “the applicant has failed to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the board that they were not responsible for the breach of planning control or that, at the time the development was being so carried out, did not know, and could not reasonably be expected to have known, that the development was in breach of planning control”.

Mr Thomas, who intends to appeal the decision, said: “My argument was this is building-stage related, their argument is it’s planning-stage related.

“There is no indication in the planning department that would allow the BFRS to go ahead and do the review so this is not a safety issue; this is a procedural issue related to the Department of Planning’s processes.

“This decision has no greater good. We represent a minimum of 45 jobs in this location but we have constantly had the opportunity be threatened by people and processes — well intended — that have resulted in huge time delays and huge financial erosion.

“We are at a place of opportunity where a dilapidated building that was a serious risk to safety has been turned into a beautiful jewel.”

Mr Thomas said that there is no alternative viable location for the fan, adding: “No exhaust fan, no business.“

Despite all the back and forth between the business and the Government, as recently as September there was a roof-wetting ceremony at the property, attended by David Burt.

The Grade 2 listed building is located within an historic protection area and the World Heritage Site for St George’s.

As such, the planning application must be reviewed by the Corporation of St George, St George’s Preservation Authority and the Historic Buildings Advisory Committee.

The Department of Planning was made aware of issues by area residents, the Corporation of St George and the St George’s Preservation Society — with the latter having the statutory authority to approve or refuse any renovations.

The concerns prompted an investigation by the Department of Planning.

Home affairs minister Walter Roban said at the time: “During the review stage, the preservation authority sought additional clarity as to what specific changes would be made to the external façade.

“A response was provided, but there was no mention of the extractor fan.”

He said the department did not halt the project, contrary to previous allegations by Mr Thomas.

Mr Roban added: “Instead, in an extraordinary show of good faith, following the misleading information presented to the media, the Department of Planning went to great efforts to discuss with Mr Thomas various options to address the concerns, and mitigate the challenge of the visual impact of the extraction fan upon the listed building and World Heritage Site.

“We will continue to work with Mr Thomas to find a workable solution to this matter to ensure a beneficial outcome for all concerned.”

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Published December 22, 2022 at 8:00 am (Updated December 21, 2022 at 6:20 pm)

Restaurant owner: exhaust fan row jeopardises dozens of jobs

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