A Productive and Generally Positive Meeting
The MAC has just completed a series of meetings with government (Tourism Minister Crockwell and Department of Tourism Director Billy Griffith), the new auditors (Deloitte), St. Georges Town Mayor Garth Rothwell, and for the first time in several years, with the Club management team itself (Perry Robinson, Latecia Denbrook, Sally and John Kyle), all during the February 20-22 on-island annual meeting that is required by the MAC’s By-Laws. The purpose of that requirement for an on-island meeting is to allow for a personal look at the physical condition of the Club by the assembled MAC.
It was a positive week, with open and good discussion between all parties. For openers, we can report that the exterior physical condition of the Club is the best it has been in several years. This is thanks to the maintenance work that has occurred under the direction of the management team, specifically Perry Robinson, over the past year. Helped by a healthy recent rain, the grounds and landscaping are lush and green and the bushes and trees are generally well trimmed and beautiful. Many improvements have been made in the buildings and rooms. Fresh paint is on all the buildings and the roofs are clean and white. The pools are in excellent condition, including a much needed re-lining of the heated pool to repair the pool interior. The team is to be highly complemented, and the MAC believes that all the members will be very happy with how the property looks when they visit this year.
While staying on-property the six MAC members were assigned to six cottages (one member was not able to make the trip), generally the one-bedroom units in the 50 series, backing to the tennis courts, and Cottage 52. This meant that MAC members were able to observe the interiors of nearly 10% of the 71 cottage inventory. In general, we’d report that the interiors were well cleaned and cared for. Minor items noted, when reported (e.g., non-functioning alarm clocks) were immediately replaced and or repaired. None of the cottages had any new furniture other than the kitchen appliances. Four of the six cottages still had the older projection TVs, and when we asked during the meeting about the pace of the replacement, MAC was told that only 25 older TVs remained to be replaced, but that the replacements had been delivered, and were on-property, and all were scheduled to be installed before the end of March. So any members using their weeks after April 1 should have a newer TV in place. Management also said that they were in current negotiations with the two cable TV providers on the island to upgrade service to HD quality and to consolidate the controls into just one remote control device that turns on both TV and cable.
In rooms, around the main pool, and in the clubhouse, we were able to use the Club’s new, improved Wi-Fi service to access the internet. (We did not test the reception elsewhere on the property.) Although the service was slow at times and may suffer deterioration when occupancy increases, members will be pleased to learn that the basic tier of service is now free and that, for a premium “per device” charge, greater bandwidth can be purchased, e.g., to be able to stream movies.
It is fair to say that there is presently no golf available on the St. Georges Public Golf Course – and no need for anyone to bring clubs hoping to play there. While
the fairways are occasionally mowed, the greens and traps are, for all practical purposes, non-existent. Moreover, we cannot even say that play is envisioned for any time in the foreseeable future. While there seems to be some interest, and there may be various proposals and plans being advocated by Kim Swan and others, there is no current plan, much less any activity toward renovating the course.
As far as the Food and Beverage service is concerned, the MAC Members had the opportunity to, and in fact did eat at Griffins for all breakfasts, several lunches, and several dinners during their stay. And MAC is happy to report that it found the restaurant – food, service, and atmosphere – to be absolutely first class. The improvement over past years is remarkable and reflects the professional management of Piero Casalucchio. The Griffins restaurant was fairly full both nights we ate there, despite having just opened for the year and in a slow February occupancy week. For one of the dinners, Piero invited the MAC to enjoy a special meal at his “Chef’s Table” – a six course meal accompanied by wine pairings. (This will also be available to patrons on a reservation basis for a price that is a bit higher than the charge of the Griffin’s $60 minimum.) Based on its experience, the MAC absolutely encourages the Club members to actively use and support Griffins and other parts of the Club’s Food & Beverage business during your visits.
On the topic of the Griffins minimums, MAC chose not to discuss the subject with management during the meetings, partially because we had previously provided management with a full, unabridged transcript of all 89 comments received from the members when we asked for a response of views on the possibility of their being continued, but also partially because we were given to understand that a continuance of the minimums was part of the negotiated arrangement under which Piero assumed responsibility and control of Food and Beverage. The latter fact made further discussion moot. (For members who may be curious about the survey results, MAC will make copies of the transcript available to members on request.) It’s both fair and accurate to say that there was diversity of views.
Through its new arrangement with Piero and his partners (who include John Kyle and Perry Robinson) that took effect January 1, 2013, the Club management has now divested itself of the Food and Beverage portion of Club Operations, and of the significant financial burden that was associated with it (because they historically ran at a considerable financial loss every year.) The Managing Agent stated during our various discussions that he now anticipates being able to operate the overall Club Operations in the future with an annual operating surplus. To the extent he is successful, his being able to do that would be applauded and will serve to reduce the present deficit and contribute to the sustainability of the Club.
The Managing Agent and all of the management team agree that they must do everything in their power to stop the Club’s repeated annual losses and stop adding to the operating deficit. Management states that it will put in place “some method of guaranteeing this is reality by the end of 2013”, and a balanced budget is met each year in the future. That is promising progress, but as yet, management is unable to be at all specific as to what that “method” may be, and we found that to be somewhat less encouraging.
At the conclusion of the meeting with the management team, MAC suggested preparation of a jointly signed statement that could be given to the members as evidence of our ongoing cooperation. MAC submitted a draft that included a pledge from the Managing Agent to agree to operate the Club at a break-even or profit starting in 2013, or failing that, to bill any deficit in the next year as a supplemental assessment. After thinking about that request, the management declined to agree to that, but proposed a different draft. Rather than go back and forth, MAC decided to abandon the joint statement idea, thus allowing management to spend its time managing, rather than engaging in back and forth editing.
However, the MAC continues to urge the Managing Agent to agree either to run Club Operations so as to generate an annual surplus, or failing that, to bill any annual shortfall in the following year as a supplemental assessment, so that the deficit does not increase, and the true cost of ownership becomes more transparent. If the Managing Agent fails to balance the budget, the MAC retains an ability and in fact will continue to pursue working with the Minister of Tourism and any other avenues to require the Managing Agent to balance the budget Continue reading