By Esther Durand, BVI News Staff
After investing more than $150,000 to create a Soup Shop branch at the Tortola Pier Park (TPP) some three years ago, the owners believe they were unfairly evicted from the high-end facility because a political figure wants the location.
Jeff Percell and his wife Katasha Melville who own the Soup Shop told BVI News on Tuesday that they were forced to vacate the TPP last Friday after their lease was not renewed.
According to the couple, they ran into some financial difficulties following the 2017 hurricanes and was behind in their rent by more than $14,000.
In October, the TPP sent the company a letter, informing them that their lease agreement would not be renewed on November 18 as they were in breach of their lease agreement due to the monies owed. However, that aforementioned sum was paid off in full before the end of 2018, and they also paid their January 2019 rent, they said.
TPP cuts power to business
The company then went on to request a renewal with a clean slate but they were turned down. They further claimed that during their last few days at the location, the Soup Shop attempted to pay the electricity bill to TPP but was refused. The TPP subsequently turned off the utilities, they claimed.
“Someone wants the spot more than me and it has to be done before election,” a seemingly frustrated Percell said.
“They (the TPP) have always been a problem. They always want to micromanage your business,” he said referring to previous attempts to sell liqueur or even place a Wi-Fi sign outside the shop; both of which were denied.
Booted during high season
Percell, however, remains hopeful and still plans to expand his business.
“At the end of the day, I am an entrepreneur so whatever God wants me to do, I’ll do. So things will be in the making, of course, they can’t stop me,” he said.
Melville, in the meantime, said she is unhappy about what she says is an unfair eviction, especially during the high tourist season.
“We went to our landlord, we showed them how much money we were making the year before, and we showed them how much we were making at the time. We said there is a vast difference and we all know the reason why, the territory was devastated, cruise ships were not coming.”
She said the Soup Shop was not impacted directly but because of the devastation, they were indirectly affected.
“We were pretty much boxed into a corner … We have staff, they are at home sitting, we all have responsibilities,” she said.
“Definitely, the situation is frustrating and we would hope that our elders in society would be there to help us and guide us and to provide assistance when needed. We contribute to the local economy,” she continued.
We have rules that must be followed, says TPP
When BVI News contacted the pier park’s CEO Vance Lewis about the claims against TPP management, he said the facility had issued a statement on the matter and did not wish to comment further.
The one-page-long statement said, the TPP “respects the privacy of our tenants and will not provide any details on this matter.”
It said, however, the facility has rules that must be adhered to if it is to run ‘smoothly and efficiently’ and to meet its financial obligations.
The statement further said the contractual leases clearly stipulates certain terms and conditions of the arrangement between the TPP and their tenants. Terms and conditions outlined relate to conduct, operational standards, and tenants being required to meet their financial obligations.
“All tenants are therefore held to these terms throughout their tenancy which is for an agreed period of time. Upon expiration of the lease the tenant has the option to ask to have their leases renewed or extended, at which point once the tenant expresses interest, the Board of Directors and Management then reviews the tenant’s performance,” the statement further said.
The TPP said tenants who have ‘followed the rules’ — including paying their rent — the renewal or extension would be granted ‘seamlessly’. Similarly, if the tenants do not comply, their application for an extension would be denied.
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