By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Downtown Nassau needs “at least 20 more restaurants” to transform itself into a nighttime destination that will once again attract both locals and tourists, a senior private sector executive said yesterday.
Charles Klonaris, the Downtown Nassau Partnership’s (DNP) co-chairman, told Tribune Business that Bay Street and the surrounding area lacked the “proper choice” of dining options that would entice families back to the city in the evening.
Noting that downtown Nassau was “locked into a triangle” between Paradise Island, Cable Beach and the cruise ships, Mr Klonaris said: “We have to combine all these top-notch destinations bringing thousands of tourists.
“It’s how we market ourselves as well as create a product. The city has to be somewhere people want to come to be entertained. It has to be clean, safe and enjoyable.
“The city right now, for it to be a nightly destination, we need at least 20 more restaurants downtown to bring variety.
“Right now, we have upscale and fast food, but are not giving proper choice for families to come down, night or day, and enjoy themselves and make use of the magnificent harbour we have.”
Downtown Nassau’s restaurant options are set to receive a major boost with the investment in four new eatery concepts by an investor group headed by Jamie Dingman, son of Bahamas-based businessman and philanthropist, Michael Dingman.
Mr Dingman and his associates are leasing four units in Mr Klonaris’s Elizabeth on Bay Plaza, situated at the Bay Street and Elizabeth Avenue junction.
And the DNP co-chair believes this will help transform Bay Street, especially the section lying east of East Street, into “a mecca for entertainment” in conjunction with other investments in the area.
Noting that the Kelly family was “moving forward” with its plans to transform the former Betty K dock, Mr Klonaris said of the increased investment activity: “I’m a firm believer that east of East Street - from East Street to Victoria Avenue- it’s going to create a mecca for entertainment very different from what the core of the city is now.
“It will have more diversity in retail, restaurants and entertainment, and attract locals to come downtown and be part of the city.”
Mr Klonaris emphasised that “the final stage” of Bay Street, and downtown Nassau’s, transformation would be its return to a ‘living city’ in the long-term.
This, he acknowledged, would involve the provision of condominium options that would allow Bahamians to once again live in downtown Nassau.
“People will recognise how enjoyable it is to live in the city, and have these facilities within walking distance,” Mr Klonaris added.
He said “the next big issue” for the DNP was to address Bay Street’s chronic parking and traffic congestion issues. It was working with the Government and the jitney industry “in terms of creating a solution where it will ease up traffic downtown and make it a more civic city”.
Discussions between the various stakeholders had only just started, Mr Klonaris said, adding that the DNP was also focused on the harbourfront boardwalk designed to run from Prince George’s Wharf to Potter’s Cay.
Sections of this have already been completed, and Mr Klonaris described it as “a key component of revitalising the City of Nassau” due the boardwalk’s connectivity to the cruise ships.
Developers of harbourfront Nassau property are under “a clear understanding” that the boardwalk has to be part of their plans.