At the Palapa Bar, mind the gap

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The new landlord of the Palapa Bar decided to settle a rent dispute gangster-style, by ripping up the boards on the pier leading to the bar. The dispute turned out to be all in his head and the boards were quickly restored. The guy's reputation took a major hit from which he may never recover.
The new landlord of the Palapa Bar decided to settle a rent dispute Texas gangster-style, by ripping up the boards on the pier leading to the bar. The dispute turned out to be all in his head and the boards were quickly restored. The guy’s reputation took a major hit from which he may never recover.

Here on Ambergris Caye in Belize, “Mind the gap” gained special relevance over the past weekend when the landlord of the Palapa Bar & Grill removed 10 planks in the pier used to reach the iconic bar.

The man, who recently bought the property — a diminutive and abrasive Texan, kind of a very bald Yosemite Sam — claims the longtime leaseholders, Scott and Jodi Harnish, were behind in their rent.

Not so.

Our friends Chunky and Ruthie were among many who flocked to the Palapa on Sunday. I am the photographer who shot their photo while staring directly into the sun.
Our friends Chunky and Ruthie were among many who flocked to the Palapa on Sunday. I am the photographer who shot their photo while staring directly into the sun.

Scott and Jodi produced paperwork showing their financials are up to date and the guy’s own lawyer confirmed it from Dallas.

The boards were quickly replaced — in time for locals, ex-pats and many tourists to pack the bar on Sunday in solidarity with Scott and Jodi. Many claimed they were willing to jump the gap. But getting home after drinking all that solidarity? Could have been a problem.

After the boards were replaced the Texan — who clearly wants the lease broken — reportedly told Scott “I’m not done f*****g with you.”

When you live on an island, the phrase “What goes around, comes around” carries serious weight. The island consensus is that time is ticking away for the tiny Texan with the hair-trigger temper. Ripping up planks is a close kin to burning bridges — although his is more of a scorched earth policy.

The recent and glorious full moon may help to explain a lot of what is going on here. Then again, maybe not.
The recent and glorious full moon may help to explain a lot of what is going on here. Then again, maybe not.

I still want to create a T-shirt “Palapa Bar: Mind the gap” with this picture on it, which is the closest I come to publishing anything these days.

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I'm not keeping to a theme here. This particular snake showed up on our property on Monday. Do not draw any parallels. It is just a snake, not a metaphor.
I’m not keeping to a theme here. This particular snake showed up on our property on Monday. Do not draw any parallels. It is just a snake, not a metaphor.

The same Texan — I’m sorry. “Texan” is beginning to sound like a pejorative term and it isn’t so. I guess this guy personifies a certain type of gringo who shows up on this small island tossing around money, influence and insults with no regard for culture, tradition, or the people who live here or their way of life.

Sure, that’s the way business  is done in Florida, for example. But not here.

At any rate, this same guy has announced plans to build a four-story resort on the property adjacent to the Palapa Bar, by erecting large signs on the property.  The news came as a huge shock to the largely residential neighborhood where two-story buildings are the height of luxury.

Too early to say what will happen with that. But if Yosemite Slam keeps up his current pace of rootin’ and tootin’ public abrasiveness I see some fresh new for sale signs slapped over the resort posters.

This chap climbed to the top of a tree on Monday for some fresh air and sunlight. So beautiful. Greenest iguana I've seen here.
This chap climbed to the top of a tree on Monday for some fresh air and sunlight. So beautiful. Greenest iguana I’ve seen here.

Ex-pats who blow into Belieze and disrespect the people find a hard road ahead.

Last year,  another Texan — oh, god, I’m sorry. I think it is just that Texas is so close to Belize — set up a barbecue restaurant and boasted about buying the finest beef and pork available from the mainland. Then he publicly insulted every other restaurant on the island. He also abused his Belizean staff, shouting at them and insulting them in public. I saw that first-hand.

Soon, he had no staff and no guests and went back home to Houston for a “medical problem.” I saw him at the airport and he vowed he’d return. He did, for about a week.

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There are bigger problems in Paradise.

The San Pedro Ruling Families are currently engaged in a drug-turf war with a Belize City gang that wants to move in and run the island.That gang is sending shooters over by boat to take out rivals. The victims so far include a two-year-old baby. His mother was wounded. A 13-year-old girl was shot but survived. Several others have died — and this is all in barely a month.

Their style is to sneak in through the lagoons  at night, open fire on a targeted house and then jump back in the boat for their trip back to the mainland before the smoke has cleared.

Admittedly this is about the most cowardly thing I have witnessed in decades.

Belize has sent over Gang Suppression Unit soldiers — armed to the teeth, dressed in camo fatigues, buzzing up and down the island in pickup trucks. It is a nice show of force but mostly they end up finding small quantities of pot or cocaine or an old pistol in some vacant lot. Always in a vacant lot.

We’ve seen this scenario played out at least twice before in the year we’ve lived here.

The prime minister has ordered a more aggressive response by his government. Smart move. Tourism, especially Ambergris Caye tourism, is the country’s top revenue generator. There is nothing like a wide open drug war to keep tourists and their money at home.

We can only hope and pray that it works.

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We had local elections last week! The party represented by these ladies did not win .....
We had local elections last week! The party represented by these ladies did not win …..

Our own problems are so much smaller — a flat bicycle tire, a failed water pump, a boa constrictor hanging out in the tree next to our building’s entrance.

The rains have begun falling — short and powerful squalls, mostly at night or late afternoon — which is good for the many cisterns that are dangerously close to empty.

...... these guys won, the UDP,
…… these guys won, the UDP,

Stuff always seems to happen just when you need it here — a weekend drama, rain, cool breezes, friendships, a holiday.

Speaking of which, Monday was a holiday, Baron Bliss Day. The ailing baron pulled up to Belize in his yacht the Sea King in the 1920’s, fell in love with it while never stepping ashore, did some fishing, then left his fortune (about $1 million) to the country before dying aboard ship.

It is a great and sad story of a man’s long search for Paradise, only to find it, then die at the gates.

The holiday’s focus has shifted some from what the Baron left the country to the many people and organizations dedicated to doing good for Belize.

Belize is an easy place to love. Sometimes a hard place in which to live.

In spite, or because, of it all, this is still Paradise. Because it is home, it is real.

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15 thoughts on “At the Palapa Bar, mind the gap

    John East said:
    March 10, 2015 at 9:34 am

    Understand Bob that the ‘policing’ resource sent to Ambergris Caye is a bit more than the GSU. It’s an elite force, foreign trained. And I further understand that the number is going to be materially increased.

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      March 10, 2015 at 9:40 am

      Right you are John. But the initial response was to send about 22 GSU members. I, too, look forward to a very strong and spohisticated response.

      Like

    Susan Watts said:
    March 10, 2015 at 9:56 am

    Is that just to remove that huge snake in front of your place Robert? Seriously, I do hope the GSU stop this (or any) gang from coming in and ruining the island. Gangs are NEVER a good sign; either are huge snakes! Note to Yosemite Sam…stay in Texas you are NOT needed in Ambergris Caye.

    Like

    Linda Czestochowski said:
    March 10, 2015 at 10:31 am

    My hubby & I spent 10 memorable days in San Pedro in January and absolutely fell in love with the people, the place, and felt very safe during our entire trip (a bit nervous driving along the tree-lined highway at night, but that’s a Canadian reflex). We visited the Palapa bar twice and bought the t-shirts! Fabulous location, great staff & food, and outstanding views!! No location is “perfect” but San Pedro comes pretty close. Hope to make a return trip next year 🙂

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      March 10, 2015 at 11:58 am

      I’m glad you had a memorable trip. The tragic violence that has occurred recently has taken place in areas not frequented by visitors, so your feelings of security are real. The island is safe. And steps are being taken to make it safer for all. I feel for the San Pedranos who are caught in this crossfire and pray that their fears will soon be just memories.
      Come on back. You’ll have an even better experience the second time around!

      Like

    johnhenryeast said:
    March 10, 2015 at 10:47 am

    I’ve noticed a lot of stop and search activity just recently. And it’s the ‘imported’ resource, not the local police.

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      March 10, 2015 at 11:50 am

      Good, John. And I hope they are equally forceful and successful in Belize City because I understand the flareups in violence are related.

      Like

        johnhenryeast said:
        March 13, 2015 at 1:19 pm

        Couldn’t agree more Bob. It would appear that once again turf wars involving drugs result in horrific consequences.

        Like

      Susan Watts said:
      March 10, 2015 at 2:06 pm

      Great! I hope the rid the island of the jerks that are invading paradise. Love it there, will be back soon!

      Like

        johnhenryeast said:
        March 13, 2015 at 1:20 pm

        There’s been a lot of activity in the last week or so Susan. Let’s hope they keep the pressure on.

        Like

    Tammy said:
    March 10, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    Bob get that snake outta there! I’m down next month and it looks big enough to eat Quinten.

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      March 10, 2015 at 2:37 pm

      Tammy, I promised my niece that I would drive all the snakes from the island on St. Patrick’s Day …. after a few beers. But my good friend Stephen Thompson pointed out that if I actually did that we would suffer from a shortage of developers, real estate agents and politicians.

      Like

    Tammy said:
    March 10, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    That’s funny!

    Like

    […] While it is true that Kyle removed more than a dozen planks from the dock leading out to the Palapa …, it was all a simple misunderstanding.  Kyle was just angry because he thought the Harnishes were a month behind on rent and utilities. I mean what landlord wouldn’t rip up planks in a situation like that? […]

    Like

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