Mixologist Lennox Cassell: "This is not a place for young people"
"These people have left me naked; they have left me with zero, I have been swept off my feet, and I have no idea how I'm going to survive or to provide for my family," were the emotional words of local entrepreneur Lennon Cassell.
On May 26, 2023, the mixologist looked on in agony as three years of "sweat, sacrifices, and thousands of dollars" was demolished before his eyes, a structure he says was his only means of catering to his financial needs.
Outrage sparked when the bar owner took to his social media account on May 23 to announce that the police had notified him to tear down his structure on Dame Eugenia Charles Boulevard within 24 hours.
Cassell, who spoke to The Sun, contends that he has contributed to Dominica's nightlife and the tourism sector through his small business, ' Bar Tough'.
"This is very rough. I have provided a service for my local people and visitors for the past three years, just doing my best to create entertainment and recreation for the public, and it is very, very disheartening to see that this is what I am rewarded with."
No other job, no income
He continued, "The officers have their duty to fulfil, but it is a shame that no one in authority reached out to me and provided any other option. This is my sole source of income. I don't have any other job, and I have a family to take care of; it is tough right now."
Cassell added that he is now rendered poor since his life-saving was injected into the structure he operated from.
"Many may say it was just a pallet structure, but to get it to what it was, I had to make many sacrifices; a lot of hard work went into it, my blood, sweat and tears. There was a time I used to sleep in this structure every night, and I feel really, really devasting to see that this is the outcome, but God is working, and he is good, so I'll just put my trust in him."
According to him, through his discussion with the Roseau City Council, "their hands are tied up by higher authorities," he explained. However, despite his circumstances, Cassell declared that he would not be made a beggar.
"I am not going to look for any palrep or walk up any stairs and beg no one because they see what is going on and the situation I and my family now face, and no one is doing a thing to help me."
He added, "I leave these people in the hands of God because those in authority know what I have been doing to contribute to the tourism sector, so I am not going to beg or plead or roll like a dog; I refuse to do it, God will make a way for me."
Whilst he admitted that he sought nor received permission to erect the structure on the Bayfront, he insisted that he was not provided with any explanation for why he was forced to leave the area he had occupied for three years with such short notice.
In a letter to the media, Trudy Groninger from the Netherlands dubbed Cassell's as having an authentic atmosphere and the best experience she had whilst on vacation in Dominica.
"Especially in a place characterized by the mass tourism of the cruise ships, this is an authentic surprise that shows the ingeniousness, craftsmanship and uniqueness of your country and citizens."
She added, "Today, I was shocked to hear that Lennon had to break down his bar. I think the bar has a high touristic value, and it would be a real loss if it had to shut down. If the bar can't stay at the Bayfront, we hope Lennon can open a bar at a different place because when we come back to your beautiful country, we would certainly hope to visit it again."
Other vendors speak
Meantime, local vendors on Dame Eugenia Charles Boulevard are also facing eviction.
President of the Bayfront Vendors Association, Roy Romaine, revealed that after meeting with officials from the Ministry of Tourism, they were given a May 26, 2023, deadline to vacate the kiosk on the Bayfront.
However, according to Romaine, the proposed alternate location could be more suitable for sales.
"We cannot leave an area where we are making money and go somewhere where we will make nothing. That is completely inhumane treatment, and we are now in limbo."
During the meeting, Romaine noted that a proposal was put forth regarding the necessity for the Ministry of Tourism to hold a meeting with the complete body of the vendors association to deliberate on the plans for Bayfront. However, effective execution of this proposal is still pending.
Athenia Esprit, a vendor for over ten years, insists she will not move.
"This is our daily bread. I have children going to school, and if I am to move, how will I feed my children," she questioned, "I will not prostitute myself. The people in authority need to be considerate of the plight of everyone."
Attempts made by The Sun to speak to the manager of the Roseau City Council, the parliamentary representative for the Roseau Central constituency and Tourism officials, have so far been futile.
-By Ronalda Luke