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Another blow for Speightstown

Gercine Carter

Another blow for Speightstown

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Many Speightstown businesspeople fear the Almond Beach Village closure could sound the death knell for a town already languishing.
Speightstown resident and restaurant owner Austin Husbands told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY the area was already “suffering” with the closure of 16 businesses within the last 18 months, which had resulted in a big reduction in pedestrian traffic. Two more businesses have closed over the last few days and yet another is shutting its doors at the end of the month.
Husbands, who is also deputy chairman of the Barbados Tourism Authority, is concerned that “if Almond closes, Speightstown and its environs are dead”.
Almond’s major shareholder Neal & Massy sent shock waves across Barbados recently by announcing their intention to close the hotel on April 30, a move expected to place 500 workers on the breadline.  
According to Husbands, this was of particular concern because in addition to the loss of income to transport operators, Speightstown businesses also depended heavily on the patronage of those workers as well as support from hotel guests of the all-inclusive property who often shopped in the area.
Speaking to this consideration, Husbands observed “there are no other areas [in the north of the island] that hold that mass of people that will come into Speightstown . . .”.
“As a person who is born in Speightstown and still committed to Speightstown, Almond’s closing is going to have a significant negative impact on Speightstown.
“So something must happen to ensure that Almond remains a hotel because we depend a lot on that visitor traffic coming through Speightstown.”
Supporting Husbands’ position, Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association president Colin Jordan, speaking in his capacity as a fellow St Peter resident, predicted Almond’s closure “is going to kill a town that is already dying”.
“If Almond Beach Village closes, it puts some pressure on the transport services . . . There is an impact on the entire north because lots of people come from St Peter, St Lucy and St Andrew because there is a lot of economic activity in Speightstown, in Moontown and in Six Men’s that is a direct result of Almond’s presence,” Jordan explained.
A check with businesses up and down Speightstown revealed the same pessimism about the town’s future.
Pierre Spenard, owner of restaurant Mango’s By The Sea, said Almond’s closing would be the “last straw”. He said Speightstown has been dying for the last 18 years, especially with the recent closure of DaCosta Mannings Lumber Yard.
Spenard said Speightstown has a rich heritage but there are a lot of vacant buildings. However, he will be working on an attraction to increase pedestrian traffic.
Clement Armstrong, operator of the Fisherman’s Pub for the last 40 years, said the town “has been dying for a long time”. He viewed the Almond closure as just another nail in its coffin.
Armstrong argued that several measures effected over the years had served to diminish the importance of Speightstown as the main commercial centre serving the northern parishes. He charged that successive governments had failed to follow through on promises and plans to restore the town to its former vibrancy.