Sapphire Beach building boarded up after new owner evicts tenants


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ST. THOMAS - The Seagrape building at Sapphire Beach Resort and Marina used to be one of the island's hottest beach party spots, now it is one of the island's worst eyesores.

With an open air design, it was a breezy, welcoming lobby with public restrooms, a restaurant and beach bar with live entertainment.

Years of legal battles and a string of negligent owners has left the building a boarded up shell with only a few small businesses still operating.

Monday, the last of it was covered in plywood with "private property, no trespassing" signs and yellow "restricted area" tape blocking off the taxi drop off area.

The decision to board up the building and kick out its tenants - the Dive In dive shop, a concierge desk and Budget Rent-A-Car - was made by the building's new owner, Dean Morehouse of Beachside Associates LLC.

Beachside Associates bought the mortgage on the property for about $1.8 million in 2003, according to attorney Jim Derr, who represents SBRMCOA, LLC, the condominium association at Sapphire.

The property - everything but the condo units and marina - was owned by a company called Bayside Resort.

In July 2005, Bayside Resort abandoned the property, which includes tennis courts, parking areas, and the Seagrape building.

In 2011, a foreclosure action was filed in V.I. Superior Court and at a court auction held in December, Morehouse obtained ownership of the property, Derr said.

Typically, when a property is sold by the court marshals, the original owner has six months to pay what is owed and reclaim the property. As part of the foreclosure litigation, Bayside waived that right, Derr said.

That meant that Morehouse was able to take possession of the property from the date of the sale - Dec. 18. He will not be entitled to the deed until the court confirms the sale, according to Derr.

"They have not moved to confirm the sale yet," Derr said. "But they have the right to possession, that's what gives them the right to go in there and board the place up."

Neither Morehouse or his attorney, Neil Goldman, could be reached for comment by presstime.

For the beachgoing public, the decision to board up the building means Sapphire Beach no longer has any public restrooms, the dive shop is no longer renting beach chairs, snorkel gear or kayaks.

Budget Rent-A-Car agents are operating out of a vehicle, without computer access.

Very few taxi drivers were bringing tourists to the beach Tuesday.

Banana Cabana, a small concession serving food and drinks, leases space from the condo association further down the beach and personal watercraft rentals and parasailing are available through the marina, and a masseuse and several vendors selling artwork, sarongs and jewelry are still doing business on the beach.

Tuesday, vendors were directing those looking for a bathroom to the marina's restrooms.

Derr said the marina's restrooms are not public, however, and the condo association board will be meeting soon to discuss what to do about the increased usages.

Banana Cabana employee Thor Moorhead-White said there were fewer people on the beach Tuesday than Monday. He suspects the taxi drivers heard about the lack of facilities and stopped bringing cruise passengers.

"It's a ghost town of just people who are actual guests of the hotel," he said.

Artist and vendor Laurie McLeod said while the actions taken by the owner are disappointing, the beach is still a good place to be.

"It's still one of the most beautiful beaches. There's still food, there's still drinks, still parasailing and jet skis," she said.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

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