Rick’s Caf execs return to court August 9

SAVANNA-LA-MAR, Westmoreland — Conroy Barrett, financial controller for Rick’s Caf in Negril, is expected to know on August 9 if the Westmoreland Parish Court will drop charges laid against him by the police for the illegal hosting of the Mocha Fest party in May, in breach of COVID-19 regulations.

Barrett is charged with breaches of the Spirit Licence Act and Place of Amusement Licence.

At the same time his colleague, Thomas Martin, operations manager for Rick’s, was slapped with an additional charge of breaches of the Disaster Risk Management Act.

When both men appeared in the Westmoreland Parish Court yesterday Barrett’s attorney, Peter Champagnie, submitted to Parish Judge Steve Walters that the financial controller was not the proper party to be charged with breaches of the Spirit Licence Act and Amusement Act as he is the accountant who is in charge of balancing the books and not the day-to-day operations.

“It is my submission, Your Honour, that perhaps your learned friend [clerk of court], if not today, because I appreciate the atmosphere, would take some advice and see whether or not she is prepared to release Mr Barrett, but review it and see if Mr Barrett is the proper party [to have been charged]. I don’t believe so, with all respect,” Champagnie told the court.

“In relation now to Mr Thomas Martin, I will need to take further instructions from him and determine how we proceed from there,” added Champagnie.

The clerk of court said she was not be able to respond at the time to Barrett’s matter. She also said the file was incomplete as there was one outstanding statement.

Judge Walters then asked the clerk if one week is enough to complete the file, to which she answered “Yes, Your Honour.”

The court, upon acceptance of Champagnie’s invitation to review the file for Mr Barrett, set a Monday, August 9 mention date for which both men will return to court.

“Mr Thomas Martin and Conroy Barrett, you are bound over to return to court on the 9th August 2021 and inspector [of police], we need that statement from the superintendent [of police] by next week for full disclosure…,” stated the judge.

When contacted by the Jamaica Observer, Champagnie said he was, “not prepared to comment beyond what was said in court, and that Rick’s Caf remains a good corporate citizen and is committed to play its vital role in the tourism sector”.

Rick’s Caf, which was established in 1974 by Richard “Rick” Hershman, was allegedly found to have been operating without an updated Spirits Licence, in addition to flouting the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) COVID-19 compliance regulations.

The breach led to the closure of the property for over a week by order of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management.

Two weeks ago, Tourism Development Company Ltd (TPDCo) Acting Executive Director Stephen Edwards, in a written response to queries from the Observer, said “Rick’s Caf has been placed on a special monitoring regime to mitigate against future breaches of the Ministry of Tourism’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols. This was done following the successful completion of a COVID-19 compliance recertification process by the entity.”

The special monitoring regime means that while entities within the industry are checked randomly, Rick’s Caf will be checked frequently and will also be subjected to undercover visits.

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