Small businesses fight to stay afloat despite curfew and COVID
It could easily be a nasty cocktail of the three c's - crime, curfew and COVID-19, but thankfully for small business operators along Red Hills Road in Kingston, at least one has been giving them a break, and it is crime. The people's biggest concern now is how to stay free of COVID-19 and make some money at a time when nightly curfews have become a part of their reality.
A jerk chicken vendor, who goes by the name 'Spoogy,' told THE STAR that he is out as early as 3:30 p.m. daily in a bid to get as much sale as possible before the 11 p.m. curfew. The nightly curfew is among the suit of measures imposed by the Government to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. People like Spoogy have been feeling the pinch brought about by the restriction and the general slowdown of the economy.
"Business slow! Dem seh we fi come offa the road 11 o' clock and by 10:30 p.m., the police dem come and a tell we fi pack up. We have we kids dem, we have grandchildren. We affi buy school books, khaki clothes and dem things deh," he lamented. "One thing though, nuh crime nah gwane as of recent. Everybody hungry now."
Wayne Morgan has been operating his business on Red Hills Road since 2016.
Abide by the rules
"We have to abide by the rules, but sometimes because we have chicken, we caa just a bring dem home. And more time when 11 o' clock come, people still out here and waah chicken. We caah run off a di road lef dem. We affi look out fi di customers dem," Morgan said.
"It rough and tough same way. But me still affi try. Me caah drop me hand a me side and give up cause di pickney dem deh home. This a my only business. Me come out from 3'o clock and stay til curfew time. A nuh every time it rains ... sometime it sunny. We afi give thanks."
Meanwhile, Kereen, one of just a few females selling along Red Hills Road, says things are sticky. The woman, who has been vending for a year, has a stall with beverages on the outskirts of PriceSmart.
"Because of the curfew, everything get slow. The timing just off. Sometimes when yuh just start make some money, that's the time when the curfew start. Before COVID, I leave at like 1 a.m. Those times, most people out in this area," she said.
"Now that we have to leave early, it's a chop in sales. The only upside is that we nuh really have much violence ... everything cool down now," she added.
Rueben Hickinson, a vendor of four years, says business is not all bad despite the nightly curfew.
"The shorter time that we have out here doesn't affect me. I'm still getting customers same way. Last year was a better time for business, but I can't complain. When COVID just started and the curfew time was earlier, things were worse. But now since we get to stay out up until 11 o' clock, things are looking better."
Nathaniel Hinds took over his father's business and has been on the road for a while. He says things were harder in March.
"We a see likkle improvement now. We affi just work wid the time. A me father business this ... As of right now, me nuh know bout no crime inna the place. A yah suh me gwane juggle and nothing nah really affect me. Me nuh affi a run from nothing," he said.