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Dallas: Shelly Bay event cost $13,500

Tasty offerings: Smokin’ Barrel plies its trade at the Shelly Bay event (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

A $13,500 event at an East End beach was value for money, the chief executive of the Bermuda Tourism Authority said yesterday.

Kevin Dallas said the cost of the promotion at Shelly Bay in Hamilton Parish on Thursday, which featured five island vendors, was based on the 445 adults who attended.

He said: “It was clearly a worthwhile investment in support of small Bermudian businesses who would have difficulty putting on an event of this scope on their own.

“We commend the entrepreneurs who stepped up magnificently last night, especially since the crowds were far larger than expected.”

The cost of the event was $61,500 cheaper than the figure suggested by LaVerne Furbert, an opponent of plans to install four vendors at the beach in temporary stores made out of old shipping containers.

Ms Furbert, a trade union official, said on Facebook yesterday that the event would cost $75,000 and that people who attended would be “wined and dined at the taxpayers’ expense”.

She added: “If the BTA spent $75,000 on this evening’s shindig, some heads definitely need to roll.”

The event went ahead despite a decision by Jamahl Simmons, the tourism minister, that Shelly Bay would be removed from the BTA’s “beach vision” plan to revitalise five beaches around the island.

Mr Dallas said: “The idea was not to create more Horseshoe Bays. It was to recognise the inherent character of each beach.

“Our focus now is to say there were five fantastic small Bermudian businesses who did a great job and proved that they can go above and beyond to deliver.

“I think our priority will now be to find opportunities to give those guys, possibly on a beach or somewhere else entirely.

“We would like to see those businesses rewarded for the efforts they have made.”

Mr Simmons said “a concession of some sort” would be created at the beach instead, which would also be used for “occasional events”.

Justin Mathias, OBA spokesman for tourism in the Senate, said the decision to back away from the plan was “sad”.

Mr Mathias said: “A BTA proposal to allow local vendors to use Shelly Bay would have supported small, black businesses and it is sad that it appears a few PLP supporters, disgruntled at the idea, managed to stop this plan in its tracks.

“Through increasing the loan facilities of the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation, Government is allowing small businesses to get access to more money but given the about-turn at Shelly Bay, they must make it clear how they are actually going to help entrepreneurs take advantage of opportunities when they arise.

“The BTA is fully funded from government coffers and up until Thursday the Minister of Tourism was supporting the BTA, so the amount spent on the event organised by the authority is, essentially, a waste of taxpayer’s money.”

Mr Mathias added: “We were told that government revenues for the first quarter of this financial year were up, but if Government continues to waste money like this, that situation will be quickly reversed.”