Bad for business

Barbados Today:

Operators along the embattled south coast are concerned that the three advisories issued this week by Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, will spell more bad news for their businesses which are already reeling from a year-long sewage stench.

Earlier this week, Canada and the United States issued warnings to their citizens to “avoid waters in the affected areas” between St Lawrence Gap and Hastings and to “beware of sewage on the streets”.

Today, the British government followed suit, telling its nationals that “certain areas of the south coast are experiencing breakdowns of sewage pipes.

“Leakages are occurring; you should avoid coming into direct contact with raw sewage and normal hygiene precautions should be followed,” the UK government’s statement read.

Amid the advisories, street vendor Sadè Douglas, who operates out of St Lawrence Gap, told Barbados TODAY the development was definitely bad for business.

In fact, she was very concerned that some visitors were already saying that they were going to change their flights from Barbados to other Caribbean countries.

Douglas also said she had received reports of visitors who had cancelled their travel plans completely.

She also told Barbados TODAY that she had heard first-hand some tourists saying that they would not be returning to Barbados because of the ongoing sewage leaks.

While demanding an urgent fix, the businesswoman suggested that Government should use its earnings from the National
Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) to ameliorate the situation.

“The Government needs to take the taxes they have taken from us, actually the NSRL that was put in place to maintain the place and actually maintain the place,” she said.

Laura Galt, food and beverage director of Lucky Horseshoe, also called for immediate action on the part of Government.

She explained that with business already on the decline since last November, the latest travel alerts were simply bad news.

“As it is our business has dropped off since like November and it has not been as busy as we normally are and I expect that with the travel advisories our business will drop [further],” Galt said.

Amid the ongoing sewage problem and 35 suspected cases of gastroenteritis in the area, there have been calls for the temporary closure of food establishments along the south coast, with the spokesman for the south coast residents and community activist Adrian Donavan suggesting two weeks ago that the sight of faeces bubbling at the doorstep of restaurants was akin to “selling food from a portable toilet”.

However, Galt said her company has not been as badly affected by the sewage problem as the neighbouring Chicken Barn, which was recently forced to close its doors.

“We still do get a pungent odour that affects the customers and the staff in the restaurant as the wind blows in our direction [but] in-house, we have taken steps to accommodate customers in the upstairs lounge if it is needed,” she said, adding that the Barbados Water Authority has been assisting the food outlet in ensuring that the area was kept clean.

However, Galt remains anxious for the sewage problem to be resolved.

“They [Government] need to fix it. They need to come out and show that they are trying to get it fixed because it has been plaguing us for over a year. Now it [has] come to the top, it can’t go any further. It has to be dealt with,” she said, adding “I hope they didn’t wait until too late.”

While agreeing with Galt, Manager of Stream Restaurant and Bar Monica Boland said her business had also been adversely affected by the sewage mess.

“Obviously we have seen a decline. We have checked our numbers . . . and I know there are people not coming here because of the smell,” she said while calling on Government to come clean on what has been happening.

“I think they need to give out some form of advisory on what is happening because no one has come out and said this is what is happening or this is what we are doing to rectify it,” she said, while suggesting that the Ministry of Health also needed to be more actively involved in the process.