The Straw Market on Bay Street.
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
WITH thousands of dollars in rent arrears owed by vendors, the Straw Market Authority is hard pressed trying to find a way for the Straw Market to exist, Works Minister Desmond Bannister told The Tribune yesterday.
Mr Bannister yesterday confirmed there have been evictions at the downtown Nassau Straw Market as many vendors have had several deadlines to pay money owed, in some cases for years.
This comes as some vendors were reportedly given four-day notice last week to pay balances off or have their business licences revoked by the Small Market Authority (SMA).
When he was contacted yesterday, the minister said he couldn’t comment on the status of the present situation but given the thousands owed for rent, it was hard to run the Straw Market.
Rent for the stalls is $37.50 per week.
“They’ve had deadlines several times,” Mr Bannister said yesterday. “I mean we have people at the Straw Market who have not paid rent for years. Three, four years (and) this is $30 something dollars per week adding up to thousands and thousands of dollars.
“We can’t run a market like that. I am not aware of what is going on currently, but the board has to find a way to ensure that the Straw Market can exist.”
He continued: “Over a period of time, people have been evicted. There are thousands and thousands of dollars involved.
“That board has their hands full just trying to exist because people have gotten around for years without paying anything.”
Back in April, dozens of Straw Market vendors demonstrated in Rawson Square incensed over closures of hundreds of stalls for rent arrears which they felt were symptomatic of predatory and oppressive regulatory oversight.
Vendors of the Straw Business Person’s Society (SBPS) marched to the square in a bid to raise the profile of longstanding issues afflicting Straw Market businesses, chief among them said to be the lack of ownership, respect or job security despite intergenerational service at the forefront of the tourism industry in a bleak economy.
According to the vendors at the time, more than 200 stalls were shuttered for overdue rent.
“They sent down a notice communication February 23 telling the vendors those who are on agreement (they) have to bring their account current, and anyone who is not on agreement to bring it below $200, short of that licence will be revoked until further notice,” Straw Business Person’s Society (SBPS) President Rev Esther Thompson said in April.
“The stalls are closed, in the October exercise, 127 stalls were closed, in this session of the 223 that were affected, they closed 51. This Sunday they closed another 25. I understand they are going to look at accounts weekly – anyone that misses a payment, their stalls would automatically be closed,” she said at the time.
Rev Thompson said vendors have asked for all stalls to be returned and to be granted a year waiver for rent in a bid to allow vendors to bring their licences and National Insurance Board payments current.