Nearly 10 months since they were first ordered shut amid increased restrictions, many businesses along Bay Street continue to struggle, barely meeting minimum targets to pay employees and keep up with bills.
The city center, once bustling with tourist activity, has been reduced to a handful of visitors passing by and stopping in the small number of stores still open.
The grim sign of little business is evident walking along Bay Street with shutters over store windows and doors in the middle of the workday.
Leon Griffin, owner of Park Lane Luxe, said he’s had the hard task of letting go of some of his employees, which has still not done much for easing the financial burden brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Things have not been right around here for some time,” Griffin said.
“That’s why we had to lay off some staff. Eventually, we had to make most of them redundant and we had to pay them off. Whatever we had saved, we had to use to pay them off. Then the rent is still coming, so you have to find money to do those things. It’s been very, very rough.”
Jewelry store employees could be seen standing at their showcases, hopeful for a customer to walk in needing assistance.
What has grown to become more than just an economic pinch is being felt by businesses from the western to the eastern portion of the commercial strip.
Calvin Johnson, owner of Midtown Gifts, where he sells bags, suitcases and other items, said if it weren’t for locals patronizing his business, he’s not sure what would happen.
“We reopened mid-June after being closed from the third week in March and business has not rebound yet,” he said.
“I mean, December I was hopeful as we got a lot of support from the locals. From a tourist perspective, it’s been very slow. Basically, in this area we are very dependent on cruise ship business.”
Worldwide, the cruise ship industry has been at a standstill with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending that people avoid travel by cruise ships.
In addition, the Straw Market, a tourist attraction and center for local handcraft, remains closed.
Standing just outside the Straw Market, Romeo Brown, who works in the area, pointed to the building saying, “I hope the prime minister extends the unemployment benefit because right now, as you can see, the Straw Market is not operating, the taxi drivers barely could pick up people and ain’t nothing going on right now.
“My words to the prime minister, sir, please extend the unemployment benefit.”
Keith Bryant, a taxi driver, said after working nine hours, since 6 a.m., he only had one customer.
“If you go on a hotel door, the one or two that are open, you can probably get one job a day and you can’t survive on that,” Bryant said.
“That’s just the times we live in, you know. The tourists who come now, they’re basically staying in the hotel. It’s rough.”
But there are a few businesses that have managed to do fairly well over the past few months.
Hoffer Sport Bay Street Manager Michelle Palomino said the store saw an uptick during the Christmas and steady business since.
“It was pretty good when we opened on the sidewalk for curbside service,” Palomino said.
“It was pretty good. You know, downtown, most people think downtown is closed because there are no cruise ships. But we’re still open, so we have to get the business to come back downtown.”