Destined to be off limits? The East Beach, which would be removed from tourism under current plans for Pink Beach. *File photo
Destined to be off limits? The East Beach, which would be removed from tourism under current plans for Pink Beach. *File photo

A few months ago my neighbours and I were treated to a presentation by Mr Stephen King of C12 Global Management at the old Pink Beach Club. While we sipped wine and nibbled on our sandwiches, we heard Mr King’s vision for a new “barefoot luxury” hotel. I must say it was initially very compelling.

New to Bermuda, Mr King has that kind of passion that newcomers often have when first discovering Bermuda. Actually, it was lovely to hear his incredulousness that more people didn’t know about Bermuda and didn’t come to Bermuda for their vacations. 

He wanted to change this by recreating the Pink Beach Club as the kind of destination that high net worth, sophisticated travellers sought out. The kind of visitor who visits Bali or the Maldives, or I guess anywhere in the world where guests would be paying well over two thousand dollars a night to stay.

Who wouldn’t be thrilled with the news of a brand- new hotel for Bermuda? Me, as it turns out. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of injecting our wounded Bermuda economy with construction jobs and jobs for future hotel workers. We need development in Bermuda and we need foreign capital. But we need it the right way.

Mr King and his newly formed company, Sardis Developments Limited, in his application to the Department of Planning, is proposing to build his 34/42 room luxury boutique hotel and six condominiums on a very much reduced tourism footprint. He has received approval in principle to subdivide the original 13 ½ acre hotel property for himself, effectively removing Pink Beach Club’s preeminent beach for his personal use. 

His barefoot luxury hotel will be squeezed down to a 7 ½ acre site which will loom over his neighbours at the Hidden Cove condominium development. I’m not sure if this says “luxury” but it sure says to me, “Let me take advantage of a distressed asset before anyone realizes what I’m doing”.

Where will his guests go to the beach? Well, they’ll mosey on down to the west beach, which is owned by the Hidden Cove condominium development. The original conveyance between Pink Beach and Hidden Cove gives access in perpetuity for the hotel guests at Pink Beach. You might be thinking, well isn’t that just too bad for the folks at Hidden Cove and Talbot Lane who share a second smaller beach with the Pink Beach Hotel? 

Please think again. Removing a beach from Tourism is unprecedented in Bermuda. The 19 families at Hidden Cove don’t object one whit to anyone wanting to build a home alongside a hotel development and grabbing a little piece of paradise for themselves. 

The east beach, however, should either remain as part of the hotel property or at least be given the right of way in perpetuity.

Five and a half acres is plenty of room for one mogul and his family to enjoy. He wants a beach, damn it, but a beach that doesn’t include all those high net worth, sophisticated travellers he’s claiming will come to his hotel.  

According to Mr King, the impact to the west beach will be minimal since his hotel will only have 36-42 rooms (68 guests) and that many will be busy lounging around a salt water pool (really?) overlooking the ocean. I actually think that his guests, who’ve heard about our turquoise water, will want to take a stroll, build sandcastles and play in the surf with their kids. I can assure you that these “barefoot luxury” guests won’t want to pay exorbitant room rates and then sit elbow to elbow on a smaller, not very exclusive beach with, say, me! Pass the Grey Poupon? I don’t think so. 

In practical terms, Mr King, who is not a hotelier, doesn’t understand that most people who are going to shell out that kind of money will want their own, exclusive beach. Sure, come down to the west beach and enjoy the sun and surf with the rest of us. We’ll welcome you and your family with real Bermudian hospitality. But for $2,000 per night (my math) at a projected $50 million mini resort? How will that work?  Will these guests feel like they landed in paradise? Or just a bigger game of beer pong?

Most hoteliers would be keen to keep control of a private hotel beach so that it could be used as an additional venue for weddings and other events to generate revenue. Why not this developer? Seems to me he’s not really interested in owning and running a hotel but he has correctly calculated that 5 ½ acres of land with a spectacular pristine beach for $6.7 million is a veritable bargain.

Here’s what I want. I want a hotel project that is going to endure and provide jobs for the foreseeable future, not just a flim-flam, dressed-up excuse to create an oceanfront estate for a hedge fund guy. 

I want to see a success story and not hear a few years from now that the hotel model didn’t work because the room rates are far too high and the hotel should have been a lot bigger (Tucker’s Point, anyone?) 

I don’t want to hear that Sardis is selling. And I especially don’t want to hear from a future developer that the site isn’t suitable because it only has one little beach which is crowded with home owners and neighbours and doesn’t really fit the bill for their investment.