Tired, old City!
Bridgetown has become “old and tired” and people no longer find it attractive for shopping.
This was the consensus among officials, city store operators and vendors who gathered Wednesday evening at the Cricket Legends of Barbados complex at Fontabelle, St Michael, to discuss issues relating to vending in The City.
The town hall style meeting, organized by the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), was designed to identify issues related to vending in Bridgetown, as well as possible solutions.
It came against the background of Operation Recapture Barbados, an initiative by the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) to reduce illegal and unwholesome activities in The City before mid-September.
That operation has been met with some degree of resistance from street vendors as well as the body which represents them.
During the meeting it was noted that retailers in The City were fed up with illegal vendors operating along Swan Street and Victoria Street in particular. Store operators complained of street vendors blocking their doorways and windows and impeding pedestrian traffic.
However, vendors said they were only trying to make a living and the Government was at fault for not granting them licences.
It is reported that only a dozen vending licences have been issued for The City, but it is believed there were between 200 and 300 street vendors there.
Acting Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith said while the Police Force was not trying to stop people from making a living, they wanted them to ply their trade in an orderly manner.
“The force understands the role vending has played over the years in the development of Barbados. However, illegal vending, we will not be a party to . . . . We support vending, especially in these difficult economic times. I don’t want anybody here to believe that we are here to remove the vendors, but it must be done orderly,” he said.
On the matter of why people were staying away from Brigetown, speakers identified high rents which caused retailers to quit, a feeling that The City was not as safe as it should be, a lack of public restrooms, not enough lights on evenings, and a lack of attractiveness.
Ellie Brown, owner of Facets International Jewellers in Mall 34, said based on interaction with tourists, something needed to be done to attract them.
“It has nothing new to offer, no new sidewalks, no new shops, no new businesses, no new initiatives. What is there is getting old, it’s getting tired and it’s not looked after,” she said.
Sharing similar sentiments was businessman Eddie Abed, who also blamed illegal vending.
“The City has become less and less relevant throughout the years. It is our capital city but at times, as been expressed, The City looks rundown, it looks as though there is a sense of chaos because of the illegal and unlawful location of many people trying to ply a trade,” he said.
However, president of the Barbados Association of Retailers, Vendors and Entrepreneurs (BARVEN) Alister Alexander said it was the lack of vending licences that had created the situation, adding that while he supported order “BARVEN will not speak of the destruction of street vending ever”.
“Only a few had the opportunity to be legal. They had stopped issuing licences and police would come and ask you for your licences that you could not produce. So we have seen things reversed,” he said.
“You cannot think of Historic Bridgetown without street vendors. It is not possible. You are going to see them in every artistic details of Historic Bridgetown,” said Alexander.