Floating bar protest burns Bernie Bush

The licensee of the planned floating restaurant and bar at Stingray City said he would make objectors to his project ‘swallow their words’ when they see the high standards of the facility.

stingray protest

Natasha Kozaily has been one of the people leading the protest against the floating bar. Photo: Joe Shooman

Bernie Bush told the Caymanian Compass he had gone ‘way beyond the call’ in complying with the stringent standards required by the Liquor Licensing Board of Grand Cayman to obtain the provisionally granted retail and music and dancing liquor license.

‘The board did its job,’ he said. ‘I feel, in fact, it went beyond it and was very, very strict with me. I don’t see that strictness with other boats, but such is life. If I have to set the bar, I have no problem setting the bar with quality, service, quality of product and quality in all other standards.’

Restaurant

Mr. Bush explained that the idea for the restaurant and bar came two years ago when a visiting soccer team went to Stingray City and asked where they could have a beer.

He decided to set up a restaurant that would operate near the Sandbar, and following from that decided to apply for the associated liquor licenses required.

The restaurant will serve Caymanian dishes that are sourced from the various districts, in order to give tourists the opportunity to sample local food, said Mr. Bush.

‘A lot of people don’t want to carry food out there with them; they don’t want to drive all the way into West Bay [to eat]. They want somewhere that they can have local food.

‘Hamburgers and hotdogs you can have all day long, but here you have Caymanian style beef, Caymanian style lobster, Caymanian style conch, all these things that different people want to try.’

He went on to explain that the Department of Environmental Health’s food handler had approved his system, which involves pre-cooked food coming from land and being kept in special warmers ready to be served to the public.

The business would use biodegradable containers and cutlery made from corn, Mr. Bush said. The only exception would be drinks, which would be served in special souvenir cups which have a premium price as an incentive to keep hold of them.

Clean-up

Mr. Bush said that rather than damage the environment, he will put several systems in place that would in fact enhance the cleanliness of the area, including his own jet-ski or clean-up boat attached to the facility.

‘There’re a lot of boats out there on the weekend dumping stuff. I’m telling them, ‘don’t do that, bring it to my boat and I’ll give you a beer in return so dump it on my boat instead’,’ he said.

‘What more can you do? Now they can carry it over to my bar and get themselves a drink. So it saves all of that headache and protects the environment.’

Calico Jack’s

Mr. Bush pointed to existing Cayman businesses that he said were equally-controversial at their outset, in particular Calico Jack’s at Seven Mile Beach. He said that there had been initial concerns that that bar’s establishment was going to ruin the Public Beach area and the water nearby, but that those concerns were subsequently proven unfounded.

‘All you have to do now is go around Public Beach and the best part and the cleanest part of the beach is Calico Jack’s by far.

‘They’ve kept it clean and beautiful because those who run it care about Cayman and we know if we keep it good they’ll come back. So why would I want to try and hurt something that’s going to make me money?’

His own floating facility would not pump anything overboard, which is something that he said anecdotally that certain other boats do.

Protest

Mr. Bush was off-island when a protest against his plans took place last Monday at Heroes Square. He said, however, that there was misinformation circulating as to aspects of the restaurant and bar’s operation.

‘A lady told me that she was asked to sign a petition at the protest, [having been] told that the boat was going to be anchored up there – and when a storm came it was going to mash up Stingray City. It’s an outright lie.

‘The law tells me that I cannot anchor on the Sandbar. Read the law. Everything the law stipulates, I’ve been told I have to do. End of story. If I go out there would I be so stupid as to put my boat on top of the Sandbar and lose my license? No. It’s common sense. But I guess common sense is not common with some of these protestors,’ he said.

In response to concerns that the facility would be detrimental to the family atmosphere due to the alcohol served, he pointed to the existing situation at the Sandbar.

‘You go there on the weekend and take a photograph and half the people have beer or liquor in their hands drinking. So this is nothing new.’

Hidden agenda

Mr. Bush felt that there were additional grievances held by some objecting to his plans that went beyond the situation at hand and said that certain individuals were manipulating the protest for reasons of their own.

‘This has to do with a personal agenda with some people and they’re going to jump on emotions and spread false rumours about people to get other people involved,’ he said. ‘They’ve never given the [full] story but given certain pieces [of it] and fed on people’s emotions to get across a personal agenda: political, financial and maybe more.’

‘I am just going get my project put out there because I already got my license, so they can talk all they want.

‘In fact I’m going to make them swallow their words just like Calico Jack’s did.’

Piece of the pie

Mr. Bush said this was a project led by a Caymanian with local people involved at every stage from the cooking of the food to the bartenders themselves.

‘The fact is it is high time that a local person started to make something out of this so-called piece of pie here in Cayman Islands,’ he said.

‘Too long it’s gone on that we’ve been made to feel guilty for opening our mouth to say ‘Caymanian’. There’s been something wrong with saying we are Caymanians.

‘It is time for Caymanians to get a piece of this pie – plain and simple.’

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