Vendors venture back on Regent St
Sales bleak at Water Street mall By Nigel Williams
Stabroek News
December 4, 2003

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Some of the vendors installed on the Toolsie Persaud Ltd Water Street property are urging the Mayor and City Council to grant them leave to sell on the streets during the Christmas season.

The vendors who spoke to this newspaper on Tuesday said business activity was very slow on the plot of land and their request was aimed at helping them make a profit or at least garner a few sales for the Christmas season.

But while the Water Street vendors are asking before moving on to the streets, others from elsewhere have begun crowding Regent Street already.

Contacted on Tuesday an official at the City Council said it would be a backward step to allow such a thing to happen especially when the Council was still battling to clear the streets of vendors.

Stabroek News toured Regent Street on Tuesday and found a number of makeshift stalls erected in front of some of the established stores. As before, most of them hung clothes and other items for sale on the outer walls of some of the stores and already the pavements are crowded.

The City Council had enormous difficulty removing the vendors from Regent Street two years ago. However, despite opposition, the Council persevered and the vendors were eventually removed.

However, now that the Christmas season is fast approaching, vendors are intent on cashing in on the increase in business activity. Moreover, with the decrease in business activity on Water Street since the vendors were removed, Regent Street has now become the busiest of the city's commercial streets.

Hundreds of citizens were busy shopping and many vendors lined the pavement.

The official at the City Council said the vendors' occupation of the street was illegal and steps would be taken to remove them.

Stabroek News observed members of the City Constabulary patrolling the street but none made any effort to remove vendors.

Some of the vendors who previously used cardboard boxes to display their goods have now built semi-permanent structures, which in some places have encumbered the parapets. As it is now the situation could spiral out of control.

On the TPL land most of the vendors were united in their cry.

"We ain't doing no business hay when de day come. Nothing ain't happening boy, nothing. Come buy someting from me nuh. Tek a rag or a pack of briefs nuh," was the plea of one of the vendors.

The woman, who only gave her name as Pinky, argued that the City Council had turned its back on them. She said that there was no single development on the land since they were placed there on July 29.

According to Pinky, they have no electricity, no water and no toilets. She said when anyone had a call of nature they had to pay $40 at a place south of the mall or beg to use the facilities at nearby Fogarty's.

But when it comes to the men, Leon Sandy said they would use the Demerara River.

Clerk of Markets, Schulder Griffith, had told this newspaper that the City Council could not carry out any developmental work on the land because TPL had secured an injunction against such.

He said plans were in train to concrete the floor of the land, install lights and build a modern sanitary block. Besides, Griffith said, proper specifications for the building of stalls and the collection of rates would have also followed.

However, he said since the injunction was in effect the Council's hands were tied. "We would like to develop the place and make it into a modern mall but we cannot do anything now."

In a press release via the Government Information Agency yesterday, the Mayor and City Council said that its engineers are working to ensure that the outfall sluices are cleared so that the area can be drained properly. Flooding at the TPL lot had been a serious problem recently.

When Stabroek News visited the vendors on Tuesday most of them were sitting in their stalls calling out to passers-by to make a purchase.

Sandy is one of about ten persons whose stalls are at the front of the TPL land. He said that business was bright for him from the beginning and this has not changed. Other front view vendors said they too have been enjoying reasonable business.

Sandy, who sells haberdashery anticipates an increase in sales for the Christmas season. He, too, lamented the lack of basic facilities, saying it was severely inconveniencing them.

Sandy also had sympathy for his fellow vendors who have stalls at the back of the mall. He said customers would only visit the front stalls and if they could not get what they wanted they would leave. He said sometimes he encouraged people to visit the stalls at the back, but many of them refused.

Asked what might be the reason for them refusing, Sandy opined it was because of the way in which the stalls were built and how they were organised. He felt that customers might be apprehensive because of the crime situation in the country, fearing that they might be robbed.

Sandy observed that some of the vendors with stalls at the back would sometimes stand out front and solicit shoppers, but even then many of the shoppers would refuse to go.

With the heavy downpour on Tuesday certain sections of the mall were under water forcing some of the vendors to close their doors.

Carmen Wilson said she was very frustrated about the situation. The woman told Stabroek News that she had three children to maintain and since last week Saturday she had not sold a single item. "I am just meking out hay boy. It's a real struggle."

Asked if she would continue the woman said she had no choice but to leave. She foresees no real development of the site for the next two years and announced that December 31 would be her last day at the mall.

Already several stalls have been abandoned by vendors who are now back on the streets.