MARIGOT–Building permit applications have been submitted for the rebuilding of Kon Tiki, Kakao, Waikiki, Bikini and Coco, the company behind Orient Beach’s iconic “Five Stars” restaurants, Sindextour, disclosed on Thursday.
Plans for a modified, lighter construction of the restaurants at a cost of approximately three million euros have been submitted to the Collectivité and, all being well, the company hopes to start construction in February at the earliest. Meanwhile Sindextour is busy cleaning its section of the beach, clearing away with an excavator the concrete rubble and debris, all that was left of the restaurants wiped out of existence by Hurricane Irma.
“We have about three more weeks of this cleaning to do,” the Sindextour spokesman told The Daily Herald. “We have two hotels in the village as well, so it’s very important, not just for us, but for the tourism economy and the hotel industry in general that Orient Beach is able to receive tourists again. Sindextour is very motivated to reinvest in this recovery.
“We presented the project to President Gibbs and he is really pushing for it, as he knows Orient Beach’s recovery is vital for the economy of French St. Martin and the island. We are hoping to receive news about the permits very soon.”
The new design concept proposes a mix of hard material (concrete) and light materials (wood). There is a central structure in concrete to contain the kitchen and bathrooms (it was noticed that anything in concrete such as kitchen, toilets, showers, survived the hurricanes) while cabanas, tables, etcetera will be of light materials that can be easily dismantled and stored away. The new restaurants will also be smaller than the old ones.
“The idea is if a strong hurricane comes again, we will be able to re-open again and not suffer a total loss. This is called resilience, the ability to open quickly again even if we have some damage. President Gibbs also called for use of light materials to limit damage to other buildings and properties from flying objects in a hurricane.”
According to Sindextour, the notion that the beach is much wider after the hurricanes is really an illusion. This is because the parking areas and access road were destroyed, along with the sea grape trees and palm trees that formed a natural barrier between the beach and the buildings behind. Tons of soil have been trucked in to re-plant the sea grapes, coconut palms and other greenery. Parking areas and driveways also need to be reorganised.
The rebuilding of these restaurants is perhaps the most positive sign to date of the French side’s recovery. Orient Beach is once again pristine, unspoilt and inviting as ever, with fresh powdery white sand seemingly recycled by Irma. It is reminiscent of the days prior to the 1993 opening of Kon Tiki, the first of the Five Stars, its overnight success opening the beach up to the masses.
Economic activity is already gathering pace on the beach. Club Orient has opened its Perch Lite Bar at the southern end of the nudist beach. The bar is serving drinks and a limited menu. Taxis were seen bringing tourists there. The club opened a special access to that end of the beach.
“We opened here on November 5, 2017,” said bar manager Randy, the Food and Beverage Manager at Club Orient. “We are getting a mix of people, locals, tourists and some cruise ship passengers. Not a lot. But we still have over 300 sun loungers and about 100 umbrellas, so we are hoping everyone will come back. We are renting some of those every day.”
No immediate information could be obtained from the Club Orient management about its situation as to when and how the resort will be rebuilt. A question mark also hangs over the Collectivité’s newly opened “carbets” between Pedros and Kon Tiki, barely open for a year before they were all destroyed by Irma.
Elsewhere on the beach, there was watersports activity going on. Mookai Watersports, an independent operator, was offering jet skis, fly board and snorkelling. Sun loungers and red umbrellas were seen in use farther down where Kon Tiki used to be. Locals were also seen playing beach volleyball on two courts as kite surfers whizzed back and forth.
Down in Orient Bay Village, Association Syndicale Libre de la Baie Orientale (ASL), President Laurent Guillot said small shops and restaurants are open for business and tourists are welcome. There has been a major clean-up of the area by private individuals.
“La Plantation Hotel is open, not all the villas, but most of them, and their restaurant is open,” he said. “Esmeralda is not completely open, but there is work going on there. Work is going on little by little on the rental villas and many of the other buildings. Playa Hotel is not open yet, as they have renovation work going on. The same for Blue Bay Beach.
“In the Place du Village you have restaurants Petit Bistro, Cote Plages and Tai Chi which are open. Alamanda Kitchen is also open on the beach side. In the village the newsagent and souvenir shop are open, as is the hairdresser and a small bar.”
Guillot, like the small business owners and restaurants in the village, is optimistic business is going to pick up. It is only a matter of time. After all, this is Orient Beach, one of the Caribbean’s most consistently popular and highly rated beaches.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/72670-orient-beach-five-stars-restaurants-to-be-re-built