Island Hut owner-mgr asks why his business was singled out for closure
Tevita Prescott, owner and manager of the Island Hut — the only restaurant at the airport — called the termination of his lease “heartless” saying his business was singled out from all the other businesses that owe lease payments to the government, and it was done a week before Christmas.
Prescott told Samoa News he had 15 employees who were out of jobs right before Christmas as he sought meetings with the Port Director and the Airport Board and met with Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga on the matter — all to no avail — his business was not given a second chance.
Prescott said that the Port Director was adamant that the Airport Board will not overturn their decision of terminating Island Hut’s lease.
He confirmed the lease for his restaurant was terminated on December 12, 2013 because he owed $23,000. “My question is why single out my business when there are other businesses that owe way more money than our restaurant?” he asked.
“When I met with Governor Lolo, he asked why I was behind on my lease payments, and I explained, since the fees for the parking increased, business was slow. I made a proposal to the Airport about the parking lot fee and I never received a response nor correspondence about the proposal,” he told Samoa News.
(In 2011 Port Administration hiked the fee to $5 a day with no notice to the public. After a huge outcry the $5 fee was returned to its original $1 fee and later that year the fee was reviewed. The parking fee currently is $3 per day.)
“The governor told me that he would look into it,” Prescott said, noting that initially his restaurant owed $27,000 and he made a $5,000 payment on the lease thinking this would allow the restaurant to re-open. He also pointed out the government also owes his restaurant money and he has attempted to have what the government owes him be credited to their lease — yet for some reason it was not allowed by ASG.
The businessman further stated that when his lease was terminated he asked that his restaurant remain open until after the holidays allowing his employees to work and earn a little money for the holidays, but his efforts were unsuccessful.
Samoa News understands that among the reasons why Island Hut was shut down was because of an unsatisfactory inspection by the Department of Health.
However the inspection came as a surprise to Prescott, who stated he was unaware of any inspection until he went to the restaurant after it was shutdown and there was a notice from DoH.
“If anything, I should have been present during this inspection, because we were shutdown on December 12, 2013 and the inspection was conducted three weeks after that.
“I don’t understand why this inspection was done without the restaurant manager present, when the lease was terminated we left everything as it was in the restaurant and so when the DoH was conducting inspection, maybe there were some leftover food that was not thrown away … but the DoH wouldn’t know that because I was not present when the inspection was conducted.”
In the meantime Prescott is selling his kitchen equipment.
Emails sent to the Port Director for comment last week were not answered as of press time.