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Thomas weighing options for pub after late night intervention

Fanning the flames: The exhaust unit at the Pub on the Square in St George’s - where the development’s future remains uncertain despite ministerial approval (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The fate of a new St George’s restaurant hangs in the balance despite a late night bid by top government officials to ensure it opens, the business developer said.

Owner Marico Thomas, who claims building delays have cost him $300,000, said yesterday he would “evaluate our position over the coming days to determine whether we can achieve the financial capacity to continue as a restaurant – or will proceed with our current path to sell”.

His remarks came after Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, intervened when Mr Thomas lost patience yesterday with what he termed “nonsense” delays imposed by the Department of Planning on his revamp of the Pub on the Square – declaring that the development was off.

But Mr Roban responded quickly saying he had in fact signed off on an approval last month for the development – after the addition of an exhaust fan led to the lengthy roadblock with the planning department.

Mr Roban added he was “not sure how this was not relayed to Mr Thomas”.

Mr Thomas told The Royal Gazette today that David Burt, the Premier, had contacted him as well as Mr Roban to voice “resounding” support for the development in King’s Square, with “surprise that the matter had not been resolved”.

Mr Thomas added: “For reasons yet to be determined, notice of the approval had not been received by myself or anyone in our organisation.

“Being only able to act on information within my purview to be known, and due to extensive and continued losses, a decision was reached to shut it all down.”

Mr Thomas added that people in King’s Square on Wednesday would have seen him leading a team beginning to “dismantle the intended restaurant”.

Even now, armed with the approval in writing, he said he would have to engage in “an evaluation, a conversation and a think” about the project’s future.

Lost financing, he said, was “north of $500,000” after backers for the delayed project had walked away from the table by late last year.

He said: “I am grateful to receive knowledge of the approval and equally grateful for the concern expressed by the Premier, both previously and in particular, last evening.

“I must also note the support from the Mayor of St George’s and the St George’s Preservation Authority.

“To say this has been extremely difficult is an understatement. I have lost friends and the trust of business partners who were in support of this.”

Mr Thomas said the offending exhaust fan that drew the ire of the St George’s Preservation Society had been “a notation” at the planning department stage.

“At the building stage, it went up on the roof, they saw it, and they said, that’s not what we expected.”

Mr Thomas said the fan unit could have been removed at that point, but he proceeded with a retroactive planning application at the planning department’s advice – only for it then to be “automatically failed”.

Even now, with a ministerial pardon, he said “the entire project is in jeopardy”.

“We have decisions to make,” he said. ”Can we operate as a restaurant? How do we come up with the money to do that when it was gone last year? Do we sell as is for somebody else to operate? The other option is to convert it into housing, cut our losses, and go.”

George Dowling III, the mayor who has previously come out in support of the venture, reiterated his backing yesterday.

“I just hope it goes forward positively as a win-win for the Government, a win-win for Mr Thomas and a win-win for the town.”

Mr Dowling said the refurbished building – which is listed because of its antiquity and stands within a Unesco World Heritage Site – looked “fantastic”.

Support for Mr Thomas came also from E. Michael Jones, the town crier who served as mayor of the Old Town until 2003.

Mr Jones said there had previously been an exhaust fan in place on the building “for as long as I can remember – it was just in a different location”.

Mr Jones said that, because its heritage, renovations in St George’s were “often accompanied by long waits, due to the sensitivity that Mr Thomas finds himself being frustrated by”.

“I will fight to preserve our town’s architectural heritage. I will also fight to ensure it has a heartbeat.”

He called on Mr Thomas not to give up on the development: “Marico, we need your support, your vision, may I add temerity, in selecting our town for such a bold and expensive venture. I look forward to the grand opening.”

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Published February 11, 2023 at 8:02 am (Updated February 11, 2023 at 8:49 am)

Thomas weighing options for pub after late night intervention

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