The Riviera hotel on South Church Street in George Town closed suddenly last week, with a bank giving employees two days’ notice before shuttering the hotel and bar and forcing out the dive shop by the end of the week, according to the owner of the dive shop and others familiar with the hotel.
The property, which sits between the towering tanks of the two fuel terminals on South Church Street, is listed for sale for US$7.2 million with Coldwell Banker.
Ben Fisher, one of the owners, told the Cayman Compass, “The Riviera has temporarily closed down and expects to reopen later this year under new management.”
The reason for the closing is unclear, and Mr. Fisher would not give additional comment. The property, which sits between the towering tanks of the two fuel terminals on South Church Street, is listed for sale by Coldwell Banker for US$7.2 million.
A pair of lawsuits in 2012, filed by Cayman National Bank, accuse The New Coconut Harbour Ltd., which owns The Riviera, of owing more than $5 million on the property. An electrical contractor filed a third lawsuit in July of this year, alleging the owner owed more than $100,000 for work and to refund a downpayment for an apartment at the hotel.
The attorney for Cayman National had no comment on the case. The real estate agent selling the property would not give any details on the property; however, The Riviera property is under contract, according to James Andrews, a hotel-industry analyst with Integra Realty Resources.
Ash Knight, owner of Go Pro Diving, which had a shop on the property, said a bank representative told them on Oct. 10 that they would have to be out by Wednesday. He said he was able to negotiate so they could remain until Oct. 14.
He said he has been able to make alternative arrangements for his employees and his shop, which was based in a converted metal container in the corner of the property.
“A lot of the diving community has pulled together to help us,” he said, and he still has access to classrooms and pools to teach the advanced diving courses his shop specializes in.
The Riviera, Grand Cayman, was marketed as a European-style boutique hotel. The first phase of the project included one long building along the property with 15 hotel rooms and 12 apartment units. The second phase never materialized, but news coverage at the time reported the plan was for 58 units, two bars, a spa and a fine-dining restaurant.
Mr. Fisher told the Compass at The Riviera’s 2010 launch party, “What we’re doing here is delivering the next generation of resort for Grand Cayman.”
The northern section of the property, slated as the site for a second building, still sits empty. The site for the building is a dirt lot used until recently as parking for the Blue Parrot bar.
The Riviera sits on the site of the old Casa Bertmar/Coconut Harbor dive hotel that dated to the 1960s. In 2001, Hurricane Michelle caused severe damage to the hotel and it remained closed for almost a decade. Mr. Fisher and New Coconut Harbour Ltd., including developer Mike Brown, reopened the hotel, renovating the old Coconut Harbor building in 2010.
Mr. Andrews, with Integra Realty Resources, said that despite the placement of the hotel, facing the ironshore between Cayman’s two fuel terminals, a hotel could make money in the spot.
Mr. Andrews said, “It would be feasible to run as a low-cost hotel with a dive shop on the site.”