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Death of a City

RACHELLE AGARD, [email protected]

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This is the claim made by several business men and women in The City.

It comes a few days after Opposition Senator Wilfred Abrahams had bemoaned the lack of activity in the country’s capital, suggesting that a special effort be made to draw life back into The City.

When a SUNDAY SUN team visited Bridgetown recently around noon, there was a moderate amount of shoppers hustling and bustling along their way, with some stopping to check vendors’ trays.

At Abed’s in Swan Street, store manager, Hassan Towini was one of the businessmen who believed Bridgetown is now too dead and something needed to be done to revive it.

“Town is too poor from all aspects. There is no convenience for parking and there are also no tourist attractions in town for lunch or dinner. Barbados over time started to copy first world countries, adopting malls with air condition systems and a cleaner environment. A lot of our clients go to our Sheraton store, and when I ask why, they say because it is available to them from all aspects; longer hours, no traffic and free parking.

“I have also noticed that gradually over time shops across the city are closing their doors. The reality is that in order to keep Bridgetown alive we need to come together to upgrade the city because we can’t lose it,” he said.

Over at B-sharp, a stone’s throw away from Abed’s, the manager who requested anonymity, said there were no attractions for people to want to come to Bridgetown.

“Extended hours were done on Thursdays, but a lot of people don’t come onto Swan Street. They mainly stay on Broad Street, so it doesn’t benefit small shop owners like myself. I think a major food court like the ones in the malls need to be implemented to attract people even after stores close. But it’s really all about economics. And despite everywhere evolving, Bridgetown has not evolved along with it,” she said.

On Lower Broad Street, one taxi driver who gave his name as Ikie Six, was among a group trying to attract passengers on the not so busy capital’s main street. He described Barbados as “the worst city in the world”. 

“I have travelled far and wide, and Bridgetown really looks pop-down. There are no activities to attract people. There are no hotels, no discos or no high end restaurants to keep you here after stores close. Signage is also an issue. Proper signage needs to be placed, especially for the tourists. And I think there are way too many abandoned buildings, and lighting could be improved,” he said.

Andrew Wilkinson, location manager for the heavily populated Cave Shepherd store, told another story, however. “We are trying to create an environment to facilitate late shopping in town. For the last two years we have facilitated that by closing our doors at 6:30 pm on Thursdays and 7 o’ clock on Fridays.

“So far it has been encouraging and we have been able to attract a crowd. We usually have additional customers during that period, and although lighting has been a general concern, we have had an improvement since December last year,” he said.

Another visit to Bridgetown, this time during the extended shopping hours, told a different story.

On Swan Street, just before 6 p.m., most stores were closed and the length of the street was congested with those hustling to get to their homes.

At the Beauty Supply store on that same street where the doors were about to be closed, workers were serving the last few in store customers.

The supervisor of the store, who requested anonymity, said that on Swan Street there was always a crowd of people so she was of the opinion that The City was not dead.

“People like a lot of sales so they would always be on Swan Street where the majority of sales are, and in our store we offer a wide variety to our clientele. I do agree that more lights need to be placed around the city and although Swan Street does have lights after hours, we need brighter lights,” she said.

Further up the street in Mandela Plaza, one of the few stores open was Anointed for Blessings boutique, and store owner, Magna Bradshaw was adamant that better could be done for the nation’s capital.

“Parking is a big inconvenience, even for me as a business woman. And now with the police car park under renovation it makes it harder to find a parking spot closer to the store on mornings. As far as I am concerned there are no extended shopping hours on Thursdays, but I open late to facilitate my loyal customers who do pass by after work.

“There definitely needs to be more lighting around The City. There was some at Christmas, but I have found since then we have gone back to the poor lighting conditions all around,” she added.

As the SUNDAY SUN team made its way further up Swan Street, the rest of shops all had “Closed” signs in their windows, although there were a few vendors scattered on the road side, some of whom were packing up their goods.

One of the few street vendors, who remained was Andre Moore who said he believed that flexitime needed to be implemented in The City.

“I think town should be opened 24 hours and have some sort of attraction to make people want to come here. When Shopsmart has Midnight Madness at Christmas time there are a lot of people in town. I think it should be like that all the time,” he said.

Over on Broad Street, it was discovered that even Cave Shepherd which implemented extended shopping hours, as indicated by a sign on their doors, was closed along with all other stores, except for the fast food restaurants.