LAVA Hotel mum on compliance question

The Chairman of Samoa’s newest hotel, LAVA Hotel Limited’s Pepe Christian Fruean, has refused to respond to reports that the hotel violated state of emergency (S.O.E.) restrictions in its first week of trading. 

The hotel is entirely owned by one shareholder: the mobile phone company Digicel (Samoa) Limited. 

Located on Mulinuu Road in Sogi, the hotel opened on Wednesday. 

Attendees at its first Friday evening happy hour said that the event drew a curious crowd looking around the newly launched premises and purchasing drinks. 

Hotel staff, who declined to be named, confirmed reports from eyewitnesses that the event was full.

An April 15 amendment to the S.O.E. orders allowed venues such as restaurants to open, but obliges owners of restaurants to monitor and enforce a policy of “social distancing” of two metres between patrons. 

But a further relaxation of orders was announced on Saturday, May 2 - the day after the hotel’s happy hour event - and said to take effect the following day. 

While retaining an order to maintain the closure of nightclubs, bars and theatres, did allow for hotel bars to open at normal hours. 

Saturday’s announcement also confirmed that the S.O.E. restrictions were to now be enforced for another month. 

The Samoa Observer called Pepe the day after the LAVA Hotel’s event, on Saturday, to ask him if Friday’s event was in violation of either aspect of the S.O.E. orders. 

But he objected to fielding questions about Friday’s event and whether social distancing at the venue would be enforced in future. 

"So [you call me at] quarter to three [o'clock], on Saturday and obviously you're going to print this tomorrow, I mean it is pretty unfair that you expect me to come up with things that you're... I mean I haven't seen the evidence of what you are actually speaking [of]," he said.

"Like I said to you guys, we're actually not prepared to make a comment right now, we're just trying to concentrate on things that revolve around how we deliver the service and also understand what the next steps of the [state of emergency] orders are.

"I haven't seen them myself and obviously I have to go back and have to read them, but I am not willing to be quoted on the paper at all."

No agreement was entered into with Pepe for his comments to be treated as off the record.

He emphasised that he would have preferred to get questions beforehand. 

But when asked if he would instead like to receive questions in writing instead of Saturday's telephone interview, he replied: "I'm not [going to] reply. 

“[It’s] on the weekend, I'm with my kids."

The LAVA Hotel opened its bookings to the public on Saturday, with a starting room rate of $299, including breakfast.

While the property has yet to be officially opened, the building and its structure has been turning heads on a stretch of road that is lined with other hotel properties.

The LAVA Hotel joins Hotel Tanoa Tusitala, Hotel Elisa, Amanaki, Le Sanita Hotel and Hotel Millenia on that side of Sogi.

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