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Businessman gives up on St George’s restaurant

King’s Square restaurant owned by entrepreneur Marico Thomas. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Confusion erupted last night over the fate of a proposed St George’s restaurant after a businessman abandoned his plans, saying he had been blocked by the Department of Planning for too long.

Entrepreneur Marico Thomas claimed he had lost $300,000 while waiting for the restaurant on the site of the former Pub on the Square in King’s Square, St George’s, to get planning approval and was putting the property up for sale.

But Walter Roban, the home affairs minister, claimed tonight that Mr Thomas had not been informed of a reprieve given in January for the development after the Department of Planning earlier rejected retroactive approval on an exhaust fan installed on the heritage building.

Earlier, Mr Thomas issued a broadside declaring “We’ve had enough” on the proposal, which was beset by delays as he refurbished the listed building overlooking King’s Square.

Citing a year of hold-ups, Mr Thomas said he had incurred $300,000 in “additional costs just from not being open”.

The restaurant owner boiled over after an ongoing standoff with the Department of Planning over the exhaust fan at the site held up the completion of a new eatery – and declared that he would throw in the towel and convert the building to housing.

“The place is just about finished,” Mr Thomas said. “The upstairs is stunning.

“My plan now is to convert upstairs to a beautiful three to four-bedroom house and the lower floor to three one-bedroom apartments.”

He charged: “It’s almost like certain people in Planning and in the Government are trying to force us out of business. There have been words, but we have not seen deeds. I don’t care what you say, show me what you will do.

“We have had enough. We tried to help the Government [who asked for help with jobs] and tried to do something for the town and people of St George’s.

“This has been a painful experience – physically, financially and mentally. And it did not need to be so.”

A government spokeswoman said last night: “We have seen the release from Mr Thomas and take his accusations seriously.

“It is not true that the department has not been responsive to Mr Thomas. Considerable work was done by the ministry and Department of Planning to assist Mr Thomas with his various projects.”

This was followed by a statement from Mr Roban assuring the restaurant owner that approval had indeed been granted for the development to go ahead.

Mr Roban told The Royal Gazette: "I can confirm that the appeal for retroactive approval of the fan was successful, and I personally signed the approval letter in January.

The minister said he was “not sure how this was not relayed to Mr Thomas”.

Mr Roban vowed “the full facts” would come to light in the morning.

Delays over the restaurant, which was promised to create a minimum of 45 jobs, led to threats from Mr Thomas last December that he would pull the plug on the enterprise.

Last night’s statement from Mr Thomas gave no indication of a change in the standoff, with the business owner fuming: “There have been words, but we have not seen deeds. I don’t care what you say, show me what you will do.

“We have had enough.”

He said the work had been an attempt to help both Government and the Olde Towne with bringing jobs to the East End.

Mr Thomas added: “This has been a painful experience – physically, financially and mentally. And it did not need to be so.”

He blamed a planning department technical officer who faulted the installation of the fan, along with the Development Applications Board who turned down a retroactive application for approval.

Apparently unaware that Mr Roban had already approved retroactive appeal, Mr Thomas said the minister had “not yet responded to our appeal”.

“As an organisation we have other opportunities. As a person, I need a vacation. As an approaching senior, I’m looking for a country to retire to.”

He added: “I am incredibly disappointed.”

In response, Mr Roban said there would be updates on the matter today.

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Published February 10, 2023 at 8:16 am (Updated February 10, 2023 at 8:02 pm)

Businessman gives up on St George’s restaurant

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