Potter’s Cay Dock. Photo: Shawn Hanna /Tribune Staff
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
GREGORY Bowles used to pay his $900 monthly rent with ease but is now three months behind and waiting to be evicted from his apartment along with his wife.
The 54-year-old has also laid off three employees since police officers began enforcing a government policy disallowing parking in front of stalls at Potter's Cay dock, which vendors blame for a crushing drop in business.
He and others protested the policy yesterday around East Bay Street, shouting that they can't pay their bills and demanding that Gregory Minnis, Potter's Cay dock's manager, be fired.
The Ministry of Agriculture said in June that loading zones are designated for offloading supplies and services and were never intended to be used as parking spaces. It added that police are concerned that parking in front of stalls pose safety and security challenges and the ministry said it would work to renew public confidence in Potter's Cay in collaboration with vendors. However, two months later, vendors say 15 stalls have shut down and the area on the weekend bears no resemblance to the bustling centre of activity it used to be.
"We normally used to have like 1,500 to 2,000 people out here on a Friday, now we have more police here than customers," said Henry Bannister, 51, owner of the Conch Venue stall. He said before the rules about parking he could make up to $300 or $400 a day but now brings in about $50.
In May, two men were killed at a stall at Potter's Cay dock. When The Tribune visited the area yesterday, cars were parked in loading zones contrary to the rules. A vendor said the reprieve was because police had simply not shown up yet.
Edward McPhee's four-year-old son, Jorron, stood on a wooden railing and played with anyone who paid attention to him.
"I'm not even able to find his school fee," his father said. "He's out of pre-school because of that."
Mr McPhee, 60, said he had owned his stall for 25 years.
"Before the rule I could make, especially on a weekend, up to $1,000," he said. "Now on average I'm making about $75. The deficit has been enormous. I'm down with my national insurance, light bill, water bill, I just barely managing to feed myself. I'm a few months behind on bills to the Ministry of Agriculture as well."
Vendors guessed that up to 60 people have lost their jobs since the policy change earlier this year.
Dwayne Bastian, owner of the Tall Boy stall and president of the Bahamas Docks and Allied Venues Association, said he has let go five people. Mr McPhee said he has done the same.
Mr Bowles said he believes the government wants them off the dock and has implemented the parking policy change to accomplish this.
"It seems everybody more concerned about the Haitians than us," he said, alluding to Abaco shanty town residents affected by Hurricane Dorian. "We're hurting here at Potter's Cay and no one seems to care."