By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A newly-formed Association is aiming to “double the food and beverage, and nightlife, economy in downtown Nassau” within two years, having set itself the goal of increasing cruise passenger spending in this area by 31 per cent come year-end 2014.
Gevon Moss, the Downtown Nassau Partnership’s (DNP) project manager, told Tribune Business that the concept for the Downtown Bar & Restaurant Association received “flat out 100 per cent support” from the 21 businesses represented at its inaugural meeting on Monday night.
Disclosing that “a couple of restaurants” wrote membership cheques for the Association on the spot,and urged others to do likewise, Mr Moss said the turnout was “spot on” with what organisers had hoped for.
The numbers present were just shy of the 25 members the Association is seeking to attract in its first year, with its creation designed to drive “a nightlife economy” on Bay Street and entice both visitors and residents back to downtown Nassau.
Estimating that the businesses represented at Monday’s meeting collectively employed at least 300 persons, Mr Moss said the Association had set itself “some realistic goals” and, come 2014, would be able to measure itself against the findings contained in a 2011 Ministry of Tourism survey of cruise passengers spending.
“It can grow. We know some restaurants and bars are maximised, but a lot of them have tonnes of growth potential,” Mr Moss told Tribune Business.
“A number are closed at critical times. We have to bring out in dollar terms what that means if we get them to extend their hours and do more covers.
“It’s big, it’s huge. We hope to say that in a couple of years we will double the food and beverage, and nightlife economy, in downtown Nassau.
“The intent is that we are going to revitalise downtown from a bar and restaurant and nightlife point of view.”
A presentation to the inaugural Association meeting highlighted how much work remains to be done on Bay Street and downtown Nassau’s revitalisation, but also showed how much growth potential there is.
Drawing on the Ministry of Tourism’s 2011 survey, the presentation showed that just 6 per cent of tourist spending went on food and beverage, with just 56 per cent of cruise passengers making a purchase in this segment when in port.
The Downtown Bar & Restaurant Association is aiming to grow the latter percentage to 60 per cent come 2014, while also helping to increase the $19.1 million spending by cruise passengers on food and beverage to $25 million by next year.
Achieving that would represent a 31 per cent, or almost two-thirds increase, in cruise passenger spending in this area.
And attending businesses were asked “to imagine” what would happen if they could help increase average per capita spending by cruise ship passengers from 2011’s $111 average to $150.
The presentation to the potential Association members also suggested that it could play a direct role in tackling “three of the top 12 complaints” by tourists - namely service training, ‘not enough to do’ and building improvements.
And, with just 20 per cent of cruise ship passengers purchasing bottled water coming off their ship, the presentation suggested that a ‘would you like bottled water with that order’ sales pitch would “generate thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars weekly”.
When it came to achieving such goals, Mr Moss told Tribune Business: “One of the concerns is a lot of the cruise ships are leaving earlier, not overnighting as they did before.
“We’ve studied the new cruise ship schedule for 2014, and we are going to see changes, which we are pretty excited about.”
Mr Moss also urged bars and restaurants to “extend themselves further”, offering an experience that went beyond just the food and drink served.
The Association is aiming to pursue a ‘twin track’ approach, focusing on marketing and promoting its members - and downtown Nassau - better from a collective perspective, while also seeking to improve service standards.
Among the touted benefits are strategic partnerships and strong negotiating power, using the strength of the DNP and other organisations.
Marketing promotions will incorporate restaurant reviews and employee recognitions, while working together will give the Association’s members “superior buying power” in areas such as payroll processing, music services, insurance, credit processing and event partnerships.
“We know our downtown will grow,” Mr Moss said, adding that several new restaurants and bars had either opened or were in the process of doing so.
Fat Tuesday, the daiquiri bar on the beach, had been opened by the same group behind Senor Frogs, while Conch and Kalik was operating from Pompey Square.
“The new Balcony will open shortly. That’s expected in the next few weeks,” Mr Moss added, also pointing to the Zvino Wine Lounge on East Bay Street, Elizabeth on Bay’s Sur Club and the four establishments that Jamie Dingman’s investor group is set to open in October.
The businesses present at the inaugural Association meeting were Senor Frogs; Fat Tuesday; Dunkin Donnuts; HammerHeads; Green Parrot Pub; Green Parrot Bar (East Bay); Zvino Wine Lounge; Lums & Iguanas; Pirates Pub; Conch and Kalik; Hard Rock Caf�; Via Caf�; Bullion; Aqua; Burger King; Towne Hotel; Strategic Partners Presents: Liquid Courage; Bahamas Food Services; Bristol Cellars /Bacardi; and Burns House.
Also present were the Ministry of Tourism Culinary Team and CHMI/College of the Bahamas