Downtown Nassau pictured during the COVID-19 lockdown.
By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
Cruise tourism-dependent downtown Nassau businesses yesterday said they may close down until September with revenues down by up to 70 percent in a bid to survive until the industry’s return.
George Mousis, Athena Café’s general manager, told Tribune Business of the cruise industry’s decision not to restart until September 15: “Well, it’s a big blow to us downtown for everybody - from the employers straight to to the employees. Most of out clientele in the downtown area are the cruise ship passengers, but unfortunately we are going to suffer the brunt of the blow.
“Thank God we cater to the locals too; they keep us going, but let’s see for how long. We have a few curbsides and dine-ins along with the takeout. We will stay open for the time being. My jewellery store downstairs is closed, but if we open up who is going to come in to shop?
“No one is buying jewellery right now. Even with the restaurant right now, the average person is going to the food store and spending the money and providing for their families. They spend money to have a meal stretched over a few days. Disposable income right now for the average person is not there, and we don’t know how long this will go on for,” Mr Mousis continued.
“At least 70 percent of our sales are gone, so right now we can’t see any profits. But we have to keep it going and keep our employees engaged, and we’ll try to hold on.” Maybe this can be an opportunity for downtown and for us to adjust our model because we need some more locals downtown. For example, where are they to park if they want to come downtown? We need this to become more of a local hub, like back in the day.
“They were supposed to revitalise downtown and improve it, but generally speaking we don’t see much action. I don’t see any movement, no forward movement, in terms of cleaning it up and making it more attractive to the common customer that are local or tourist alike. It’s not much to bring them downtown for. We have a few banks and we have a few restaurants, but generally speaking the first hurdle is where are people to park?,” he added.
“Even last week for Father’s Day they were towing cars and, all of a sudden, no one was able to park. I know the spaces are for the taxis, but where are the taxis now? They are not around here, so why not let the locals utilise the spaces at least until things get back in action. But now a local is trying to patronise an establishment downtown and their car is getting towed, because I had a guest that was eating lunch and they had to get up and move their car.”
Ryen Fox, general manager of Bonneville Bones’ downtown store, said: “There has been a huge impact thus far. Basically there is little to no traffic of customers downtown. We still have a few persons that actually work downtown that come in.
“September does seem a long ways away, but at the same time I understand the necessity to protect us, because we don’t have the resources to take a full brunt of the coronavirus. So, it’s kind of a necessary evil but it is bittersweet.”
Ms Fox added: “Of course we had to reduce our hours and there is no way to be certain on what path we’re going to take in terms of staying open or not. We have been trying to do things to bring our customers downtown, because there is less traffic. But I can’t say for sure if we are going to stay open or not.”
Christine Wong, general manager of Sue Nan Shoppe, said: “We are disappointed but there is really not a lot that we can control. We just have to do the best that we can under all circumstances, but we’re disappointed. We need the flow of visitors.
She said it was unlikely to be “feasible” to remain open indefinitely with the lack of customer traffic, and added that she may close down any day now until September. “I think September is going to be too long of a wait based on everything we’re seeing. We are literally seeing a handful of people a day,” she added.