Blackout makes businesses scramble

Utility work cut off power to businesses and residences in the Seven Mile Beach area for about 11 to 12 hours Monday. However, that’s not a portent of blackouts to come this summer, a spokesperson for Caribbean Utility Company said. 

While Monday’s pre-announced power outage did have a negative impact, business people said they understood the necessity of the blackout, as CUC workers cut and relocated electric lines to accommodate the new Caribbean Plaza development that is under construction. 

The affected area included West Bay Road between Snug Harbour Road and Canal Point Road, including Caribbean Club and The Strand Shopping Centre. 

No blackouts anticipated 

Last April, CUC instituted rolling blackouts to cope with a spike in electricity use in response to warmer summer temperatures. At the time, CUC’s system had been limited by a damaged generator and a failed generator, which were subsequently repaired. 

CUC doesn’t anticipate having to resort to load shedding this year. 

“We don’t expect to have any problems this summer at all,” said Pat Bynoe-Clarke, manager of corporate communications for CUC. “We’re well into summer now and everything is working well.” 


Managing the outage 

Caribbean Club manager Danielle Wolf said her business did not have electricity from about 9.45am-8.30pm Monday. 

“It’s easy to say we had no power and it was terrible,” she said. “But it has to be taken into consideration that they had to do a job that had to get done. I think they did a good job.” 

In order to manage the power outage, the hotel chartered a boat and invited guests on a trip to Stingray City. Additionally, the lack of power caused Luca restaurant to remain closed that day. 

While the restaurant closure cost money, Ms Wolfe said it helped that the outage occurred on Monday, rather than Sunday, when the restaurant hosts a large brunch. 

Ms Bynoe-Clarke said, “A notice of the outage was sent to radio stations on Friday. Normally a longer notice period would be given but in the circumstances with the location of the work on the main Seven Mile Beach Road, associated vehicular traffic issues, and the feedback from the majority of customers with respect to sustaining a long outage, it was determined that the holiday Monday would be the least inconvenient time for the persons who were going to be affected.” 

Because Monday was Constitution Day, fewer businesses than usual were open. For instance, The Strand Medical Centre was closed for the holiday. 

Woody Foster, managing director of Foster’s Food Fair IGA, said the power outage did not affect operations at the Foster’s supermarket at The Strand because the store has a backup power generator. 

“We have a generator so we were fine,” Mr. Foster said. 

He said the only additional cost to the company was the “12 hours worth of diesel to run our generator”. 

He noted that if the utility work had taken place Sunday instead of Monday, Foster’s would have been closed. 

Mr. Foster said the business was notified of the power outage about three days before it occurred. The outage lasted longer than CUC had expected, “but that happens”, Mr. Foster said. 

Ms Bynoe-Clarke said, “The outage was scheduled from 8am to 4pm but when CUC crews started the actual switching procedure, a circuit breaker failed to operate, which caused delays in the start of the work. The delay in the start of the outage and relocation work caused the work to continue beyond the planned power restoration time. CUC apologizes for the inconvenience this delay caused to the affected customers.” 


‘The more notice the better’ 

Meegan Ebanks, general manager of Paperman’s Coffeehouses, said the power outage had a significant impact. Originally, the cafe’s location at The Strand was scheduled to be open on the holiday, while its location at Midtown Plaza was scheduled to be closed. 

After being told on Friday afternoon of the impending power outage, company management switched gears and opened the Midtown Plaza location instead. 

“For this particular one, it would have been helpful to have had a few more days to make the best accommodations possible,” she said. “The more notice the better for us, so we can let customers know to visit our other location, or make arrangements to better suit the store that would be having outages.” 

She said they had to hook up some generators to keep the freezer operating at The Strand location and move all of the food there to the Midtown Plaza store. In addition to lost revenue from not being able to open The Strand location – which typically attracts tourists who might not be able to make it over to Midtown Plaza – Ms Ebanks said a major effect of the power outage was having to cut back on staff for the day on short notice. 

“Certainly for staffing reasons, it would be better to have more than a couple day’s notice to tell them they’re not going to be working,” she said. “Maybe some don’t mind being told that. But it’s difficult for those of us who live on a day-to-day income.” 


Past outages 

Since the April 2011 blackouts, there were several reported power outages 29 and 30 April, 2011, which interrupted the live telecast of the Royal wedding for many residents. 

In August, power was lost from East End to South Sound for more than an hour after a pickup smashed into a transmission pole on Sparkys Drive. Later that month, about 600 customers in North Side lost electricity for about three hours. 

In late December, residents in Frank Sound, Savannah and Bodden Town lost power for about two hours due to a transmission line fault. 

Emergencies like those are why Foster’s has backup generator power, Mr. Foster said. “[It d]oes not happen that often but the generator is there for insurance so we are prepared for it when these instances pop up.” 


Caribbean Plaza 

The Caribbean Plaza development has had planning approval since 2008, when the cost of the project was estimated to be $12 million – but since has been reduced in size. Located on two acres across West Bay Road from Caribbean Club, the development is a complement to the Caribbean Club, also by developer Joe Imparato. In 2009, Caribbean Club and Caribbean Plaza jointly applied for a pedestrian bridge (similar to the Hyatt’s or the Ritz-Carlton’s) to traverse West Bay Road between the two developments. However, the Central Planning Authority refused the application, saying building the bridge before Caribbean Plaza was created would be premature. 

Now, the National Roads Authority is working on installing a pedestrian crosswalk in front of Turtle Run next to Caribbean Club. 

Comprising some 52,900 square feet of covered and public areas, Caribbean Plaza will include office space, retail and a restaurant, and will rise to a height comparable to Caribbean Club.  

According to the website of Adare Investments, “This new complex will consist of three 10,000 plus square foot buildings with predominantly office space and ample parking. There will be 15,000 square feet of space available for lease. The buildings will be 10 feet above sea level, high quality, energy efficient with the latest technologies. The space will be competitively priced and the ground floor in the central building will include about 4,000 square feet of eatery space providing a good mix of different uses.” 

West Bay Rd CUC 4

A power outage Monday due to new construction affected businesses and residences along West Bay Road. – Photo: Patrick Brendel