A Look Back to How It All Began Part II
Surge, Wind and Fire
The hotel has not been without its challenges, and there have been many Don't Stop the Carnival days over the years, referring to the famous Herman Wouk book.
Besides the various challenges that have come with a hotel/bar/restaurant/dive operation in the Caribbean - especially in the early days - there have been some more significant setbacks to deal with.
On Christmas Eve, 1980, fire burned down the original main house, which served as the office, gift shop along with eight rooms. The fire was caused by an electical overload. The old Caymanian house had been wired in the 1950s with lamp wire and overloaded.
Luckily, just a month before the fire, the new restaurant building had been opened, which allowed the office operations to move over to part of the new restaurant. The office stayed there for a couple of years it took to build what is now the office and front desk building.
Even though it was on the sea, Sunset House avoided any significant storm damage for more than 30 years, even escaping Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 pretty much unscathed.
But in December 1990, exactly 10 years to the day of the fire, the Christmas Eve nor'wester (as it is known on island)damaged the bar significantly. The nor'wester left the deck and roof, but everything else was gone.
Then in November 2001, sea surge from Hurricane Michelle, which passed more than 200 miles west of Grand Cayman, took the bar completely and washed straight through eight rooms. Amazingly, the staff worked around the clock for the next 4 days and nights and hosted a full hotel with the PADI Total Submersion Group.
Ironically, Michelle did more damage than Hurricane Ivan, which came within 25 miles of Grand Cayman in September 2004. Ivan didn't completely destroy the bar, but it did make it lean over, requiring a lengthy closure until repairs could be done. As far as hotel rooms were concerned, water did get up under the soffits, which caused some of the drywall in the ceilings to come down.
Many of Grand Cayman's other housing didn't fare so well and Sunset House opened its doors to the newly homeless. With so many people left abandoned, Sunset House put them up, sometimes 4 to a room. One evening the restaurant cooked 168 dinners for folks and never charged anyone who came by.
With a stand-by generator, well water and cistern water on hand, the hotel was up and running the day after Ivan. It was months, however, before tourists started returning to the hotel.
As popular as the hotel has been with visiting divers, the Sunset House bar - called My Bar - has been equally popular with Grand Cayman's residents.
Friday night happy hour at Sunset House is basically an island institution and tradition for that matter that attracts up to 200 people every week.
The thatched roof My Bar was originally built in 1968, and then rebuilt - with 32,000 thatch leaves - after Hurricane Michelle in 2001. Appropriately, it was the son of the man who did the thatch work on the first time, that did the thatch work on the second time.
A testament to craftsmanship, the thatch roof remainded largely in tact after experiencing Hurricane Ivan's Category 5 winds.
During the 1980's and early 90's, My Bar had two "unofficial" mascots, two dogs - a black lab named Pirate and a golden lab named Honey. Unfortunately, "Honey" lost one of her legs as a pup and was renamed, lovingly, "Tripod". Both dogs slept under My Bar and would come out to free patrons as they arrived.
My Bar has also been, with exception of a few years, one of the most popular places to play dominoes since it opened. However, in the late 1980s, the play got a little too wild and boisterous for the Brigg's liking and it was banned for three years. Eventually, dominoes were allowed to be played again at two tables at the bar, and everyone from cabinet members, magistrate judges, guests and Adrien himself can be found playing there on occasion.
|Home | Site Map | Contact Us ||