Some Water St sellers cite problems complying with court ruling

By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
October 29, 2000

Ten days after Chief Justice Desiree Bernard gave vendors one month to comply with a licence allowing them to continue hawking their wares on Water Street under certain conditions, the vendors are yet to comply.

According to the licence drafted by the Mayor and City Council some years ago, the vendors are allowed to hawk their wares between 7:00 am and 6:00 pm daily once they remove their stalls at the end of the day. There can therefore be no permanent structures after this time and the city would be empowered to tear these down.

Stabroek News spoke with several vendors on the western side of the Water Street pavement yesterday but it would appear that none of them has changed the design of the stalls. And many of them hold the view that the Mayor and City Council has to give them a design for the new stalls.

Another said that he is hoping to start construction of new stalls next week but he has to get materials for two stalls because of the quantity of his stock, which he has valued at about $2.5 million. Other vendors too are trying to get materials, he observed, and each stand is estimated to cost about $20,000 to $25,000.

In all, Stabroek News spoke with eight vendors. The majority of them said that they have about $2 million to $3 million dollars in goods on display. At present their biggest worry is storage for the quantity of goods they stock.

The majority of the vendors have about two stalls each, with one on each side of the pavement, and the structures are linked by a roof. Because of the quantity of goods they have and the fragile nature of the commodities, they could not be easily packed up and carted away each day, they contended. According to them, for the past four to seven years they have been staying overnight on the pavement in their stalls to ensure the security of their "investment". The majority of stalls on the inside sell breakable wares while clothing and other types of haberdashery are sold on the stalls facing the road.

Two of three brothers who have been selling on Water Street for the past five years said that they "are in nobody's way". One of them said that "in essence, we stop selling even before six in the evenings because people don't walk here in the night."

"To be honest", he said "we are trying to sell out what we have but (they are) so much." He said that sales are not good at this time as some goods are seasonal. We can only put out what will sell. At present, he said, he has old Christmas stock from the past two or three seasons and is hoping to get rid of some.

The women vendors, the majority of them single parents, all said basically the same thing. Construction of new stalls, they claimed, would cost about $40,000 to $50,000 and that would be expensive. Moving too, they noted, would add to their costs as they already have homes and children to look after. At present one said she "ekes out a living here but I have no choice." One vendor said that if the Guyana Stores Limited bond on Water Street is made available to them now, he will move in there as he feels the goods will be more secure from the elements and thieves.

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