Tributes and condolences poured in today as west end residents woke up to word that Donald Hassell, owner of the former Somerset Country Squire died suddenly overnight.
Word of his death was posted on social media early today, by family members, who are no doubt grappling with their loss.
Mr Hassell, who has been on the frontline of Bermuda’s hospitality industry for decades, was featured by Bermuda Real on October 1, 2020, under the headline: ‘End Of An Era: 33 Years Later & Somerset Country Squire Is Closed Out Of Business’.
The closure left at least 14 employees on the unemployment line.
In an exclusive interview, Mr Hassell said the popular Somerset Village community pub officially shut down operations at the end of July 2020.
Admittedly, he said he was quite emotional during the clean up to clear out in the lead up to a ‘Going Out of Business’ sale this Saturday.
“I want to thank the public for supporting me in every endeavor I have done from Henry VIII, Flanagan’s, North Rock Brewery and thanks to the Somerset community because they have done a lot for me,” he said.
“It’s a community pub, this was the meeting place, I met a lot of people here and I made a lot of friends here.
But he was reluctant to speak on the dispute with Sandys Holding Company that led to this closure, at that stage.
“It’s been a long battle and I’m still battling and it’s not over for me but I never thought it would come to this,” said Mr Hassell.
“For the last ten years I’ve just held on for the community, I haven’t made any money out of Squire. This closure means the loss of 14 jobs.
“I’m a shareholder with the Sandys Holding Company and I never thought we would split on these terms but it’s not over.”
“It’s disheartening because this was my life’s work. I’m a Somerset boy, I grew up here, I grew up over East Side now I’m on West Side and I look at the community – this has torn a community apart. I think it has really torn this community apart.
“A lot of my customers have said they miss me but I know who my friends are and it’s a hard pill to swallow. You will hear more from me soon but I don’t know when it’s going to be over.
“I am emotional and it’s the worst way to be in business.
“Somerset is going to die, we’re dying on the vine now but we’re really going to die. I never thought I would see something like this.
“We have got to find people work and unfortunately you have no tourism business,” he added.
Moving forward he said: “I’m spending a lot of time over the Watford Club trying to get some cuisine up and running. And I’m trying to do community efforts but it’s not a good feeling the way this went down.”