By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
The Junkanoo Beach Association's (JBA) president yesterday argued that his group would be the best management authority to administer the destination should the Government choose to outsource this responsibility.
Barron Coley-Austin told Tribune Business he welcomed the concept of a management group taking control of how Junkanoo Beach is run while advocating that the Association, which represents area vendors, would be best-suited to the task.
An estimated 300 people are now employed by activities at Junkanoo Beach, with some 25 vendors also operating at the site. It is said to be vastly improved compared to the “garbage and prostitute-riddled area" it was some 15 years ago when the first vendors opened in an effort to commercialise the area for Bahamians.
The Downtown Nassau Partnership (DNP) had expressed interest in incorporating Junkanoo Beach into its plans for the overall redevelopment of the downtown area, to which Mr Coley-Austin said: “I think it will be good for us. I believe that there will always be pros and cons, but I think we have to start somewhere and I believe, as Bahamians, we just have to start working with one another. We have to put all of our differences aside and stop being sceptical of one another.”
The Downtown Nassau Partnership has previously said it was a mistake to allow Junkanoo Beach to develop in the ad-hoc, unplanned way it has evolved over the years. It added that it had a vision to turn the entire strip from The Pointe all the way down to Arawak Cay into a waterfront restaurant and entertainment venue.
In response, Mr Coley-Austin said: “If they want to put in a management group, we already have a constitutional body and we have a constitution approved by the Government. So even if they want to bring someone in, I think we will all have to have an opportunity to sit at the table.
“For me, I am very apprehensive when I hear about all of these ideas flying about because I have been here for five administrations and I have seen ideas come and go all the time. Hopefully this will manifest into something meaningful, but we are prepared to work with anyone that wants to enhance the Bahamian experience and give Bahamians opportunities.”
The idea of appointing a management group for the Junkanoo Beach area even made it to a formal tender process under the former Minnis administration, but no winning bidder was ever selected.
Mr Coley-Austin said: “It took us five years to get it all done and legalised, so no matter what they bring to the table, they have to have us included. The minister (Chester Cooper) has said that we have to be included, and the Senator (Randy Rolle) said that we have to keep you informed. We are prepared to work with everyone, and if it’s a management company and they are prepared to abide by our constitution that is already in place, then it could be a beneficial thing.”