Who is in charge here?
This was the question bellowed out by a female police officer in a loud tone of voice as she stepped inside Coconut Beach Restaurant on Grand Anse beach on Thursday night in an operation against the business owner, Dennot “Scratch” Mc Intyre for allegedly breaching Social Distancing protocol in the fight against Covid-19.
The policewoman seemingly knew who she was looking for as she then quickly said – “Where is Mr. Mc Intyre? Mr. Mc Intyre, you are breaking Covid protocols”.
This began a 48-hour ordeal for the Grand Anse business entrepreneur as his restaurant was shut down by a member of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) on a night when it was being heavily patronised by customers as money rolled in to help pay salaries of staff and to service utility bills.
The policewoman told Mc Intyre that the order to close him down was from “high authorities” but without telling him exactly who was behind it.
She then gave instructions to the businessman: “Tell the DJ to tell the people the place is being closed so vacate the place.”
THE NEW TODAY understands that the next day, the distraught “Scratch” was in search of answers over his predicament and contacted Health Minister Nicholas Steele who was operating the 61 West restaurant just about 50 metres away from Coconut Beach.
He telephoned the minister who invited him to make the short walk to 61 West where he got an insight for the first time into the move to close down the business allegedly on instructions from Acting Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Shawn Charles.
“He (Scratch) say when he realise that water more than flour he call the man (Minister Steele) and the man tell him come across, he went across and the man pulled a chair for him to sit down on.
According to well-placed sources, Steele who is the Member of Parliament for the South St. George constituency reportedly informed “Scratch” that the Covid-19 czar was at 61 West Thursday night and looked across and saw a crowd and became convinced that Coconut Beach was in violation of Social Distancing requirements.
Faced with the prospect of losing out on $3000.00 business on Saturday night as the place was booked by a number of guests, the business entrepreneur tried to make out a case to his powerful neighbour to use his good offices as a Minister to re-open the restaurant as it was also heavily booked for Mother’s Day on Sunday.
“Scratch” had gone shopping earlier in the day to purchase items like steak to treat his guests and had stocked the fridge and freezer but had to call them to cancel the planned event.
After a wait for about three hours, Scratch is said to have felt that he was just getting a run around in circles and concluded that Minister Steele was not prepared to help him resolve the issue.
An informed source familiar with the inside moves said, “The man (Minister Steele) tell him (Scratch) that his hands tied. He (Steele) pull out a phone, he say he called Shawn and then tell him (Scratch) no answer. He tell him, boy, I can’t reach Shawn, so I will send him a message.
“The man (Minister Steele) sit down talking to him (Scratch) but appeared to be unsympathetic. He (Scratch) said, I am in front him and I watching him and he telling me that his hands tied because Shawn is a disciplined doctor who stick to the rules.
A family member later told THE NEW TODAY that they are very doubtful that Minister Steele did in fact call his Acting CMO on the cellphone to try and resolve the Coconut Breach Restaurant issue.
“You know you are the boss and you call a lesser mortal, he’s going to respond,” he quipped.
With no signs of the episode coming to a satisfactory conclusion, “Scratch” weighed his options and decided that the next best option was to get in touch with Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell to request his intervention.
He left 61 West and went back over to Coconut Beach and called a known associate of the Prime Minister who promised to contact PM Mitchell to raise the issue with him but apparently did nothing to help the Coconut Beach operator.
However, sitting inside the closed restaurant was another businessman whose former female companion was now involved in a personal relationship with someone who reportedly has the ears of the Prime Minister.
A call was made to the lady who then informed her other half what was happening and the individual in turn allegedly pulled out his cellphone and placed a call to the Grenadian leader who got into action and helped to clear the hurdles for the restaurant to re-open to serve the public.
The Mc Intyre family members are also very doubtful about Steele’s explanation for the flow of events and suspect that it was a set-up and conspiracy to get at Coconut Beach on Thursday night.
According to the source, the family is convinced that the Health Minister had “set-up Shawn to show up at 61 West at an appropriate time and to get the CMO to send somebody over to the restaurant “to observe and to take action.”
Describing the episode as “a really sad chapter”, one well-placed source told THE NEW TODAY that “the thing is a set up” because both Steele and Scratch are running separate businesses 60 metres apart and the Minister as MP for the area could have pointed out to him that he was suspected of operation in violation of Covid-19 Social Distancing requirement.
“If Shawn was by him (Minister Steele) Thursday night and he saw that (violation of Covid-19 protocols at Coconut Beach) he could have called him (Scratch) across (and deal with the situation right there).
“I am convinced that Shawn didn’t come there on his own – I have never seen Shawn there before and I am always around there – every day. I am talking about a whole year now – I am constantly there about 3, 4 times for the week, I have never seen Shawn there (at West 61) yet.
The source is insisting that the police were set up to move into Coconut Beach and deal with the large number of persons that are attracted there on Thursday night due to its popular chicken wings that sells for EC $1.00 a piece.
THE NEW TODAY was told that the restaurant attracts a wide cross section of Grenadians especially ordinary Working Class people from Grand Anse Valley and surrounding villages and a few persons from the Middle Class.
Despite the incident, Minister Steele was seen going in and out of Coconut Beach three times on Sunday to patronise its Mother’s Day event with the purchase of a number of drinks as if nothing had happened.
The attack on the popular business owner by State officials is not going down well with the ordinary folks in the south.
A source told THE NEW TODAY that Minister Steele has already upset a number of persons including fisher folks operating on the beach over his intention to relocate them from one section of the beach to another to ply their trade.
“Them fellah waiting for him. They didn’t mind if they give Scratch a (warning) letter but to close down the thing, they didn’t like it,” he quipped.