Grand Case Beach Chairs: The ruling will be rendered on June 24.

On Friday morning, the Saint-Martin Administrative Court examined the request of eight Grand Case restaurant owners relating to the cancellation of the decision of the Collectivité to prohibit any commercial occupation of the beach.

The Administrative Court’s judgment will have a "worldwide impact", according to the Société du Soleil, Zen’it, Love Résidence, Rainbow, Yellow Blue Spot, Valérie Robert, Caribbean Creole Food Sarl, Effet Mer, the eight Grand Case beach restaurant owners who seized the court in order to have the executive council’s decision of November 17, 2015 cancelled.

A decision which stipulates: "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."

The restaurant owners defended by Maître André, a French attorney, insisted on the touristic nature of the site and on its reputation as the "gastronomic capital of the Caribbean". And this "initiative has been damaged by the executive council’s decision".

At the hearing, the public rapporteur pointed out that the restaurant owners received a few days later a letter asking them to remove their beach chairs and parasols within two weeks, which was right at the beginning of the tourist season. A quick measure which may seem surprising because "for twelve years, the authorities never tried to enforce the regulations" and ask the restaurant owners to not use the beach.

The Collectivité was also piqued by the Court about its way of handling the case. "The case will have a worldwide impact, yet the Collectivité has remained silent until now", stressed the public rapporteur. Indeed, at the Administrative Court, both parties must provide a statement of case before the closing of the examination of the case by the judges; in other words before the date of the hearing. However, in this case concerning the beach chairs, the presiding judge publicly deplored the fact that the statement of case of the Collectivité wasn’t filed until the morning of the hearing. "I was not instructed by the presiding judge until yesterday [Editor’s note: on Thursday]", explained maître Benjamin.

These details aside, the public rapporteur based his conclusions by referring to the organic law and specifically to the executive council’s jurisdiction. He indeed tried to see if this body was competent to make such a decision.

"The executive council can deliberate on individual decisions, on proposals from the president of the territorial council or on decisions for which the authority has been delegated to it by the territorial council", said the public rapporteur. He therefore considered that the decision of November 17, 2015 does not fall under any of the powers of the executive council and he asked the Administrative Court to cancel the aforementioned decision.

The case has been adjourned for further deliberation. The ruling will be rendered on June 24.



Estelle Gasnet