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Straw Vendors Criticise 'Heartless' Decision To Close Stalls

The Straw Market on Bay Street.

The Straw Market on Bay Street.

By LEANDRA ROLLE

lrolle@tribunemedia.net

STRAW vendors yesterday criticised the Straw Market Authority’s decision to close over 190 stalls at the market, citing it as an “unjust and heartless” move meant to drive them out of business.

In a letter addressed to SMA chairman Kelly Ingraham, the Straw Business Persons Society expressed disappointment in SMA’s “reckless” actions, noting that the vendors should have received written warning in advance about their stall closures.

The letter noted: “(Vendors) met their stalls locked upon arrival to work on October 15, 2019…why was this shock and awe tactic used in this instance? How can you and your team be so cold-hearted and reckless towards a hard-working group of people who just want to make a living and provide for their families?”

According to SBPS, the closure of these stalls results in a total of some 300 stalls closed at the market. And added to these complaints, as noted by SBPS, is the limited amount of time given for vendors to pay their fees.

From Monday to Thursday, vendors have until 2pm to pay cashiers. Meanwhile on Fridays, vendors have until 2.30 pm to pay their fees.

“When compared to cashiers at other government entities, it is evident that the straw vendors are at a grave disadvantage. This is so simply because some vendors don’t make a sale until after 2pm,” the letter said. “We believe these business hours need to change and come into alignment with other government enterprises that closes at 4pm daily.”

Vendors also complained about the lack of proper cleaning supplies provided in the Straw Market’s restrooms.

“There is very little hand soap, tissue and no hand towel placed in the rest rooms. There is still no proper signage, the lights are off in certain sections and then in the other sections there is no lighting, and in the facility, it lacks proper maintenance… the tourists are disgusted,” the letter stated.

In speaking on these issues, SBPS called for the government to address the actions taken by SMA, while also imploring officials to be more considerate to their needs.

“We firmly believe that the government should seek to appoint persons with some life experience, interpersonal skills, managerial skills, and the ability to resolve matters with wisdom…,” the letter continued.

“We (also) need the government to be more sensitive. Case in point, if the Straw Market have over 500 stalls and almost 2/3 must be shut down for arrears, that should send a loud signal that highlights that the rent is too high, and some type of concession needs to be given to vendors.”

Up to press time, Works Minister Desmond Bannister, who has responsibility for the Straw Market, did not respond to requests for comment. 

The rent for stalls at the market is $37.40 a week. Mr Bannister has previously defended the government’s hard-line stance on arrears payments, saying in 2018 there were some cases of vendors who had not paid rent for years. 

“They’ve had deadlines several times,” Mr Bannister said last year, after reports of evictions at the Straw Market. “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.”

Comments

ohdrap4 1 month, 2 weeks ago

yep, they were just coming to pay 4000 two years worth of arrears. But could not do so because the office closed at 2pm.
They tried to wait until tomorrow morning, but the car and the washing machine broke down when they arrived home so they spent the money before 5pm.

It is hard to feel sorry for bill duckers.

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Dawes 1 month, 2 weeks ago

If $37.50 rent per week is too high due to the lack of sales, maybe its because there are too many stalls? Consideration should be done to cut the number of stalls so those who are there are able to make a living as they claim they are not able to do. Also if you don't pay the rent, how do you expect to be able to demand the facilities are maintained? Government should not waste one more dollar on the straw market, rather turn it over to the straw market association on a free lease but leave them to maintain it. If they don't close it down.

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OriginalBey 1 month, 2 weeks ago

They just feel as though they shouldn't have to pay. It has nothing to do with ability to pay. These vendors participate in massive asues, pay for private school, travel to New York's China Town district to buy their wears a few times a year. They have the means. The government just tolerated the slackness for far too long

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realfreethinker 1 month, 2 weeks ago

$37.40 per week $149.60 per month. " that should send a loud signal that highlights that the rent is too high, and some type of concession needs to be given to vendors". Really? is this person serious? And they want terlit paper,hand soap and hand towel. If you can't pay that rent you may want to consider a new business to be in. Bahamians real think the gov. is responsible or them from the cradle to the grave.

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Chucky 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Let’s be honest. Half the junk the vendors sell is from China, and all the junk they sell is overpriced.

I’ve seen it over and over where tourists are pressured by these lowlife classless vendors they buy there wares. I suggest that if they want to survive they should off value for the dollar and treat people properly. The attitude in there is no different than a street vender’s attitude in Mexico; people don’t like it when you try to get forty dollars from them for something that’s worth 6$, and the process is insulting!

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Economist 1 month, 2 weeks ago

OriginalBey is right. I remember passing by one morning 20 years ago and they had two asues going. One was for $500 a week and the other $300. Some of the vendors were in both.

You can find $800 a week for asue but can't find $37.40 a week for rent?

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sealice 1 month, 2 weeks ago

If they could get the drug dealers out of there and sell something that isn't imported chinese crap and get something that is maybe a reflection of Bahamian Culture that would be something - they might actually start making money then selling real Bahamian good instead of knock off chinese crap... the wood carvers are the only true Bahamian Artisans in the straw market anymore

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birdiestrachan 1 month, 2 weeks ago

The straw market is not a pleasant place to visit. It is not well designed. they can Thank the FNM Papa for that.

The PLP had a good design with Valuable property you go up a few stories. the government would have made money from the look out over the beautiful Nassau harbor

Without vision the people perish. Take note we are not doing well

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Dawes 1 month, 2 weeks ago

The fire was in 2001, from 2002 to 2007 PLP were in power and did nothing to the straw market (remember they were in the tent on Pompey Square). If PLP had any vision they would have built something. Or does it take them over 5 years to make a decision?

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mandela 1 month, 2 weeks ago

The straw market and its concept have lived itself out, 500 stalls packed in that small area. The Nassau straw market experience is a horror, first, they are packed together like sardines in a can, when a tourist walks through the market they are swarmed by the vendors coming at them from all directions that it overwhelms the tourist to frustration, so on many occasion they don't spend as they want to or spend at all. I visit the straw market twice a year with out of town guest and every time it's a horror.

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TalRussell 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Long before Hurricane Dorian made landfall in Freeport the default on commercial rental payments -fell within the same range as that of the 38 percent rental default rate of the comrade Straw Vendors, yes, no ... over at the International Bazaar, the rental default rate neared 76 percent ......

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