Crucian complains hotel is turning away locals


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ST. CROIX - An open letter to The Buccaneer Hotel on social media from a local man who says he and his family were turned away Sunday when they wanted to eat at one of the resort's restaurants and visit its beach has struck a nerve among some local residents.

Arash Pahlavan posted the letter on his Facebook page, sharing it with the Buccaneer and more than 60 others on Monday morning. In it, he says he was turned away Sunday at the gate because the restaurant was too busy and then not allowed access to the beach, while being treated rudely by a security guard.

Elizabeth Armstrong, general manager of the Buccaneer, said Tuesday evening that hotel officials have tried to reach out to Pahlavan, but had been unsuccessful in getting through at that point because his voicemail was full.

She said that the hotel sometimes does ask people to come back later if the restaurants are too busy, but that the hotel's policy is to continue to allow beach access.

Armstrong has spoken to the security guard and the manager who was on duty at the time to hear their side of the story, but so far has been unsuccessful in speaking to Pahlavan, she said.

Pahlavan's post seems to have taken off since he wrote it, gaining more than 150 comments and being shared on other pages, including "Everything and Anything Virgin Islands."

"We want to create awareness, and are doing what we feel is right," Pahlavan said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. "We think locals are owed an official explanation from the hotel."

In different locations across the territory, the issue of beach access for the public has at times in recent years generated strong emotion and sparked controversy. V.I. Code declares that the public shall have the right to use and enjoy the territory's shorelines, although it does not address the manner of gaining access to the shoreline.

Armstrong said the Buccaneer's policy is to allow the public access to its beaches.

In the post to the Buccaneer, Pahlavan describes himself as a local resident who "visits your gorgeous hotel, with my family, at least 2-3 times a week. We live close by so we often have breakfast lunch or dinner at the hotel."

He said he and his family went there Sunday and "were rudely turned away."

"The rude guard told us that the resort is closed to locals until 2:00pm. He did not give us a reason even through we requested some sort of explanation. He just told us to turn around & leave. He was not a good representation of your fine hotel and he was outright out of place," the post reads.

Pahlavan said he then called and spoke to a manager, who told him the hotel closes to locals because it is busy with tourists, but would be back open to locals when there is less business.

"This is unacceptable," he wrote, adding that he supports the Buccaneer in many ways, spending money in its spa and restaurants and on hotel rooms, and has hosted two weddings there. He wrote that he recommends the hotel to visiting guests, and that he thinks Sunday's decision was a bad one.

Pahlavan said in the interview that his family still wanted to go to the beach on Sunday, even if the restaurant was full, but the security guard would not allow them past the gate.

"He said the hotel is closed until 2 o'clock, and he said use that road and turn around," Pahlavan said. "I asked a couple of times for an explanation, and he said 'Sir, the hotel is closed until 2 o'clock. Just turn around.'"

Pahlavan said he took issue with being denied access.

"Our issue is that they restricted access to the beach and the resort and made the decision to control access in and out of beach," he said.

However, Armstrong said the security guard did not recall the incident but that the manager on duty did and had apologized to Pahlavan and tried to get him to come back.

There is a general policy, she said, that if the restaurant is busy, then people are asked to come back later. She indicated that those asked to come back later were not restricted to only locals.

"It's anyone. Sometimes we can't seat our own guests," she said, noting that it is high season and there are a lot of people on-island, including locals, Buccaneer guests, guests at other hotels and part-year residents.

"We're always sorry when we can't seat any guest, wherever they might be staying," Armstrong said.

The resort strives to be a good member of the community, she said.

"It is not our hotel policy to exclude anyone. Many, many people come in and enjoy facilities every day," she said, noting that people use the Buccaneer's jogging trail, beaches, restaurants and facilities for tennis and golf.

"It's unfortunate that we were busy at the time," she said of Pahlavan's experience. "It's unfortunate that he felt he wasn't treated properly, because we want to show courtesy to all our guests. We pride ourselves on that."

She reiterated that the hotel is not trying to exclude people.

"No one is being excluded. That is absolutely not our policy and not the way the staff of the Buccaneer provides service," she said. "He is a patron of ours, and we don't want him to feel bad or feel like he's received rude treatment."

She noted that this time of year, the island's restaurants are busy. She said that given the economic downturn, she thinks that busy restaurants could be considered "a good thing. People should feel positive."

- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email jblackburn@dailynews.vi.

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