October 02, 2012 8:18 AM
PHILIPSBURG - President of St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) and general Manager of Princess Heights Luxury Condos Emil Lee won his court case against The Westin St. Maarten Dawn Beach Resort and Spa on 18 September.
As of the SMART tradeshow in May 2011, The Westin banned Lee from entering its hotel under any circumstances even in the case of invitation by clients with rented facilities at The Westin.
The dispute revolves around an ongoing lawsuit whereby Princess Heights is suing The Westin for violation of its hindrance permit with regard to the noise and hours of operation of The Westin's generator and cooling towers. Because of this, The Westin banned Lee from entering the hotel on two occasions, including the reception hosted by the Governor of St. Maarten on the occasion of the Royal visit, to which Lee had been invited.
The Court of First Instance ruled that The Westin was incorrect in denying access during SMART 2011 and the Royal reception of November 2011. The Westin was ordered to allow Lee access to events in the hotel for which he can show an invitation or ticket as well as to public areas of the hotel; and to pay Lee US $500 for every day or part thereof in noncompliance to a maximum of US $25,000. The Westin was also ordered to pay for Lee's portion of the legal procedure as well as lawyers' fees.
"As President of SHTA, I am often invited to official receptions and meetings, some of which are held at The Westin. Because I choose to defend my legal rights to peaceful enjoyment of my home and business, The Westin has looked for any means possible to harass and embarrass me. I have never done anything other than speak the truth and defend my rights and for this The Westin has sought to 'punish' me. I refuse to be bullied into subjugating my rights. The purpose of the lawsuit was never about financial compensation. It was about standing up for your rights. It was about refusing to be intimidated," Lee said.
According to Lee and his legal representatives, the court's reasoning was that in principle a business has the right to deny a third party access to its premises. But a hotel is a public place; that obviously does not go for its rooms, offices, etc., but is does for its lobby, hallways, shops and restaurants (as well as facilities such as spa and function rooms when contracted out). The same goes for rented-out spaces in case the renter allows one access.
Seeing the characteristics of this hotel, a denial of access (of Lee) to the hotel can only be imposed when circumstances come up in which The Westin cannot in any reasonable way be required to allow access: in case a reasonable threat exists that Lee will behave unlawfully towards The Westin or one or more persons on its premises. There is no evidence substantiating that Lee is in any way threatening or destructive.
"I would like to thank my lawyer Jeroen Veen of Lexwell for his passion and effort to successfully defend my rights. I am happy that this chapter of a distasteful dispute is over. Ultimately, my hope is that we can all move forward and operate peacefully in an atmosphere of mutual respect," Lee said.
(The Daily Herald)