MoBay vendors blast ‘one night’ Grand Market decision

December 09, 2022
A section of St James Street adjoining Sam Sharpe Square in downtown Montego Bay, St James.
A section of St James Street adjoining Sam Sharpe Square in downtown Montego Bay, St James.

Vendors who ply their wares in Montego Bay's downtown district have loudly voiced their disapproval of Thursday's announcement from the St James Municipal Corporation (StJMC) that there will only be one allotted night for the upcoming Christmas Grand Market, and no vending on New Year's Eve.

Montego Bay's Mayor Leeroy Williams, who is the chairman of the StJMC, outlined the stipulations for Grand Market vending during a media interview following Thursday's monthly meeting of the municipal corporation.

"Grand Market will be on December 24, and it will go from 3 p.m. until 2 a.m. on December 25, and will be held in Sam Sharpe Square and on St James Street. Grand Market this year will only be for one night, and so there will not be a Grand Market on New Year's Eve," said Williams.

"The reason for this is that the police are of the opinion that there could be increased activity as far as the criminals are concerned, and they do not want to confine their manpower just in one particular area. They need to be in the communities and the various hotspots," Williams added, noting that normal vending operations will continue on the StJMC's usual designated streets after the Christmas period.

But one clothing vendor, who identified himself as Mario, took issue with Williams' declaration, arguing that the vendors should be given some time prior to the Christmas period to earn money for their families.

"A foolishness dem a deal with. What dem a leave we to do, go thief? They should have at least given us next week, even one week, and imagine, the majority of us have bills and pickney to send to school," Mario complained. Another vendor, who identified himself as Thompson, agreed that only one night for Christmas vending is not enough.

"A one night alone poor people fi eat? Look into it, you can't give poor people one night fi eat and we have children to feed. We will work with the authorities, but they are not working with us," said Thompson. "We just make a hand to mouth on one day and the next day we can't use the road again, that is not fair. Right now we can't spread out and make money, and if we spread out, our goods get taken away."

The StJMC had previously butted heads with vendors over the city's Grand Market staging in 2020, when hawkers staged a demonstration before the municipal corporation's building to protest the limited time allotted to them for vending during that year's Christmas period.

At that time, Williams had announced that there would be no Grand Market staging due to concerns about COVID-19. He subsequently granted a reprieve for vendors to peddle their wares at earlier hours on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Eve.

This year, vendors will be required to be registered with the StJMC in order to sell their goods at Grand Market. Registration will take place from December 19 to December 21 at the Montego Bay Cultural Centre. In addition, traffic will be allowed to flow freely in Sam Sharpe Square and on St James Street to avoid any possible congestion along the surrounding city roadways.

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