Shut out of business for two years, Crooks sells Tobago apartments

Crooks apartments in Crown Point, Tobago. Businessman Ronnie Ryan Crooks has sold the apartments. - DAVID REID
Crooks apartments in Crown Point, Tobago. Businessman Ronnie Ryan Crooks has sold the apartments. - DAVID REID

The covid19 pandemic has delivered a tremendous blow to the business community for well over a year.

The tourism industry has taken the biggest blow owing to the restrictions against international and domestic travel to curb the spread of the virus.

Even as vaccines are being administered and Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis professed that there is some "light at the end of the tunnel," some businesses won't see the light.

Tobago businessman Ronnie Ryan Crooks on Wednesday confirmed to Newsday that he has sold his Crown Point-based Crooks apartments to a local buyer.

Crooks, 61, said financial challenges made the decision to sell an easy one.

"It is not a hard decision if you've been shut out of business for two years.

"I'm getting older – I'm not getting younger. Somebody younger has to be able to handle the trials and tribulations of trying to maintain and conduct business in TT.

"I'm done putting a line in the water to catch a customer. If I was younger, I would have been willing to take the challenge on again, because I know the possibility."

Crooks, born in Trinidad, said he grew up in New York before moving to Tobago to take up property his grandfather left him.

He owned the apartments for 22 years.

He said the economic blow caused by the pandemic and the unreasonable demands of the banks, left him with little choice.

"It's a matter of a number of things.

"We're trying to stay afloat. I thought the banks were gonna work with us. (Bank name called) has not held the line when it comes to customers, to try to allow them to survive this pandemic. They constantly giving you calls about loans (in arrears). You have to find other options and alternatives in order to find your way.

"Here's the trick: they want you, although it's a pandemic and you can't conduct business, if you have a high amount of money you have to pay back, if you go into any kind of arrears, they're not offering you any assistance – although the reason you're in arrears is legitimate and right in front of your face."

He added, "If you're a month in arrears, two months, (the bank is) not giving you an opportunity to get right – because you're in arrears."

Crooks said banks are not showing compassion in this difficult economic climate.

"That's why the government is offering the moratorium – to allow you to float on this heavy sea. They feel you can make money out of thin air."

He believes the Government should take more decisive action to support business owners.

"They should mandate it. They leaving it up to these financial institutions who only thinking about money. They 're not thinking about helping you. They're thinking that you may have a valuable property that we can foreclose on and they can sell it to somebody else in these kinds of times."

Businessman Ronnie Ryan Crooks. -

Although Tobago hotels and small properties benefited from a $50 million grant for upgrades, Crooks said he did not access any funding.

"I took the guaranteed loan programme that they established about eight years ago. I've used that to upgrade and I didn't need to do any further upgrades, which kind of helped because if I was doing upgrades regularly I would have been further in arrears and issues today."

He lamented, "I just find the banks are predatory."

Crooks, whose building has six apartments and an outdoor pool, said although he welcomed the foreign visitors, Trinidadians mostly patronised his accommodation.

"When we decided to reopen slowly (last year), I did have some customers.

"Trinidad has been my saviour, to be honest. Eight-five per cent of my customers are from Trinidad."

He said four permanent employees and landscapers have been affected by the sale of the apartments.

"Hopefully the guy who is taking over will be willing to take on the people who were working for me, who understand the logistics."

Asked about the Prime Minister's plan to reopen the borders in a month's time if covid19 numbers continue to trend downward,

Crooks said he was hopeful.

"They key to that is the vaccination. But the (walk-in) vaccine roll-out wasn't done smartly. You had mass hysteria.

"You have people that see what's happening in the US with people back doing their normal things and people crave that."

He said a more efficient system needed to be implemented.

"I'm not coming down on the government, because I understand this disease, but people are dying and they have to find a way to get the vaccine in people's arms."

He anticipates a huge tourism boost when that is achieved.

"As long as the vaccine is in the arms and we have herd immunity, I can see this happening soon. There are lot of people anxious to get away and find a vacation spot and come to the islands to unwind from the two years of imprisonment."

Crooks said Tobago has tremendous untapped potential.

"I think once the borders open and the government doing their part and advertise the product, it could be fabulous.

Tobago is the tropical (paradise), it could be like a French Riviera or Spanish Riviera. They (Europe) have the vacation spots they can turn to. Tobago is underutilised and under-sold."

Crooks said he planned to travel the world once the border is open.

"What I plan on doing now? I wanna see the world and breathe a little bit. It's something that I'm looking forward to."


"Shut out of business for two years, Crooks sells Tobago apartments"

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