Unfair on Bay Street businesses

EDITOR, The Tribune.

Erecting bleachers on Bay Street two weeks before Junkanoo parades is a heartless blow to Bay Street merchants. We have to find a better way. The fourth quarter in the retail cycle of most businesses worldwide is critical to their profitability. I must assume that it’s the same for Bay Street owners and sales clerks.

According to the US Census Bureau, American retailers recorded as much as 35% and no lower than 27% of their annual sales during the 2021 holiday season. Some retailers estimated that 2022 would be even higher considering the pent-up demand as a result of the two pandemic-driven years.

I am sure it’s no different in The Bahamas.

It’s high time we apply urgent attention and more significance to the viability of downtown Nassau as a profitable commercial centre. Unlike other ports in the Caribbean, the city of Nassau is the only one where 5-7 cruise ships daily berth directly into our downtown, depositing thousands of tourists just steps away from some of our iconic retail stores. For them and locals to be met with the hazard and inconvenience of bleachers, that could easily be erected two to three days before Junkanoo, is not only patently unfair but dangerous and wholly insensitive of the plight of Bay Street merchants and employees. Its no excuse that the relevant ministry or department does not have the required labour to get this done. Hire more people temporarily to meet the 2-3 days time frame. The merchants should not have to absorb such a serious economic blow, because some department head in the public service lacks this simple bit of creativity. Where is the voice of the Bay Street property owners?

We have been talking about the revitalisation of the city centre for decades now. Downtown lacks creativity or interest. In fact, I regard the portion of Bay Street beyond East Street as wholly beneath the dignity of our main commercial arena. Eyesores in the heart of downtown. When can we expect to see meaningful improvements? Scores of cities around the world have in the last 50 years undergone major renovations and upgrades. They realised that this was necessary to become and remain competitive if they sought to attract businesses and investors. The city of Nassau, on the other hand, has remained virtually untouched in the same period, except for cosmetic upgrades here and there.

In March 2022, Deputy Prime Minister and Tourism Minister Chester Cooper, announced that: “We will implement a sustained plan that will outlast me as a minister and beyond the five-year political cycle. He admitted in that address to Bay Street property owners that “there is money to be made in downtown”.

The property owners have been telling governments that for decades now. But, do we need another plan? Don’t we have one already, that was designed to, and has outlasted, the five-year political cycle? If the present one needs some tweaking or adjustments considering that things have changed since the original design some 25 years, then tweak it. Tweak also or repeal, if necessary, the 2008 law, based on the plan, passed to “encourage the revitalisation of the City of Nassau by granting certain exemptions and fiscal incentives to persons engaging in such investment”. We’re talking almost 15 years ago. What has happened?

Based on what I can remember, the existing plan contained some interesting objectives, framed on the premise of making downtown Nassau a livable city, where people would take up residence, thereby attracting new businesses, and possibly encouraging existing ones to extend their operating hours. It also envisaged existing and new entrepreneurs establishing sidewalk eateries and cafes with local entertainment. It further proposed that a portion of Bay Street, say, from Frederick Street in the west to Parliament Street in the east, be closed between certain evening and weekend hours so that shoppers and clients could move about freely and safely. In addition, it promised many more on-street parking spaces downtown and on the surrounding streets, with meters. This would mean that taxis would be removed off Bay Street and placed onto a well-regulated side street.

What has happened? These are sensible proposals. I am sure there can be more. We understand that it cannot all be done at the same time. But, could we start maybe with just the parking spaces and meters? I calculate that by doing absolutely nothing to the present arrangement, there can be at least 1,000 parking spaces that can be easily created right now from Elizabeth Avenue in the east, East Hill Street in the south, Nassau Street in the west and Woodes Rodgers Wharf in the north. At about $2.00 hour, per meter, about 12 hours a day, six days a week, this would not only generate about a three-quarters of a million annually (which is a tidy sum) but also ensure a constant flow of traffic-generated customers. Happy customers. Happy merchants. Happy salespeople. Happy Treasury.

When people talk about the ease of doing business, they just don’t mean reducing the steps and time it takes to get things done in the public service. It also means the implementation of common sense initiatives that would make life just a little easier for the average citizen.



December 24, 2022


birdiestrachan 5 months ago

Is this the former deacon former member of the house, if so why did they not do something about this?


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