Grand Case Beach Chairs: all you need to know about the case in 5 questions

Eight Grand Case restaurant owners seized the Saint-Martin Administrative Court to ask for the cancellation of the executive council’s decision of November 17, 2015 relating to the prohibition of any commercial use of the Grand Case beach. All you need to know about the case in 5 questions.


Can a beach be used for commercial purposes?

In France, beaches are considered as part of the public maritime area. In the mainland and in some of the overseas territories, this area is managed by the State. In Saint-Martin, since the Collectivité status has been obtained, this area is managed directly by the Collectivité. Except in the protected natural areas (Pinel and Le Galion), which are managed by the French coastal protection agency.

The use of beaches by a business (restaurant, Bar, watersports, etc.) is regulated. Businesses must file for an authorization to temporarily occupy a part of the beach, which is called an AOT (a temporary occupation permit).

AOTs are issued locally by the Collectivité. Requests are filed by business owners and submitted to the executive council, which gives its approval, or not. The contract stipulates the duration of the authorization and the amount of the monthly rent to be paid.

It should be noted that some beaches are private in Saint-Martin and are therefore subject to an AOT; they have been sold by the State to individuals. Such is the case for plots of land in Nettle Bay, Friar's Bay, Orient Bay and the Anse Marcel Cove.


Do the Grand Case restaurant owners have an AOT?

No. In other words, they are not authorized to use the beach. Nevertheless, the authorities have tolerated that they install beach chairs and parasols on the beach.

However, the Orient Bay restaurants all have an AOT, for both the Sindextour restaurants and the new carbets.


What happened in November 2015?

A few days after the blockages in Marigot on October 22, 2015, the Commission for territorial, urban and transportation planning of the Collectivité met to decide on the use of the Grand Case beach. It approved the prohibition of any commercial occupation of the public area.

Two weeks later, on November 17, the executive council also met and followed the commission’s opinion. "Any commercial occupation of the public area of the Grand Case beach (tables, chairs, beach chairs, parasols and booths) is prohibited. No temporary occupation permits of the public area for commercial purposes on the Grand Case beach will be issued by the Saint Martin Collectivité."

It is interesting to note that in addition to pointing out that the occupation of the beach by restaurant owners is prohibited, the Collectivité decided to prohibit the issuance of AOTs on the Grand Case beach.


How did the restaurant owners react?

They were not compliant with the decisions of the Collectivité and continued to install beach chairs on the beach. Eight managers (Société du Soleil, Zen’it, Love Résidence, Rainbow, Yellow Blue Spot, Valérie Robert, Caribbean Creole Food Sarl, Effet Mer) decided to seize the Saint-Martin Administrative Court. They are requesting the cancellation of the decision of November 17, 2015. The case will be examined on Friday June 10 by the judges.


What could be the consequences of the administrative court’s decision?

If the cancellation is rejected, the situation will stay the same as it is today but the restaurant owners will be able to appeal the judgment.

If the decision of November 17 is cancelled, however, this does not mean that the restaurant owners will have the right to put beach chairs on the beach. Indeed, since the beach is part of the public area, its occupation must be regulated. And without an AOT, they cannot use it.

They will therefore be able to file for an AOT from the Collectivité and the executive council will have to decide. The executive council can choose whether or not to grant the authorization while bearing in mind that a refusal must be properly justified. And if an AOT is granted, it will indicate the amount to be paid and can limit the number of beach chairs.

However, it remains to be seen if the Collectivité can decide that it doesn’t want to launch an AOT procedure for the Grand Case beach.



  • A political uproar caused by the case

The case of the Grand Case beach chairs hit the headlines at the end of 2015. In the press, on November 11, the Collectivité announced its intention to prohibit any commercial occupation of the Grand Case beach and declared that this would be on the executive council’s agenda on November 17. In the meantime, the concerned restaurant owners got together and received the visit of the elected representative in charge of economic development on the eve of the executive council.

On Tuesday, after a long meeting, the proposal was adopted by a single vote; since the five other elected officials and members of the executive council had abstained.






Estelle Gasnet
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