The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the financial woes of some already struggling vendors on Potter’s Cay Dock.
The spread of the novel coronavirus in The Bahamas and subsequent curfews and lockdowns came months after a policy that limited parking on the dock dealt a devastating blow to the businesses.
Beryl McPhee, who owns a business named Archie’s, said owning a business on Potter’s Cay is not the financial opportunity it used to be. She said she can no longer see it as a path for upward mobility on New Providence.
She said that she now only serves breakfast because the afternoon crowd is too small to make preparing lunch worth it.
“It’s really hard,” she said.
“If you’re looking at this business to move to another level in life, to get a home or do this and that, I don’t see it. I can’t see it. The little money you make, the money is so small and there are so many things to do with it. You really can hardly do anything for yourself.”
McPhee said sales have been down since the stalls reopened following the lifting of some of the strict COVID-19 prevention measures. However, she noted that the no-parking policy had already done a great deal of damage.
“Even though we are opened up, we are dealing with a situation with the no-parking policy, where people aren’t allowed to park in front of the stalls and it tends to make things a little slower,” she said.
She added, “It killed business out here really bad.
“…We have been struggling for a long time and we are still struggling. And it’s like nobody hears our cry. Nobody comes and assists us.
“This is our bread and butter and to see what’s going on right now, it’s sad. [This is how I] support my family. And then I have one or two people who help me out. So, they depend on this as well. And sometimes when things get bad, you’ve got to tell them they can’t come today or they can’t come tomorrow because the money isn’t there.”
Last year, after two murders on the dock, police began strictly enforcing a rule that allows no parking in front of vendors’ stalls. Since then, vendors have complained of significantly reduced sales.
Edward McPhee, who owns a stall called Bang’s, where he sells conch salad, seafood and other lunch and dinner options, said the pandemic has taken the crisis for vendors to another level.
“The pandemic just put the icing on the cake,” he said.
He added, “Before, we would have been complaining about the parking and the policing style and all of that. But now the pandemic just shut down everything. A lot of people are not working and then we don’t have any tourists coming in. So, we just have to pray that the best happens.”
McPhee said he has a young child whom he has to support, and his business is his only source of income.
“I would like to be able, like I used to do, to help others in my family,” he said.
“But I need help myself now.”
Calvin Pinder, owner of Simply the Best, said that while business is slow, he is just relieved to be back at work.
“Before COVID, things on Potter’s Cay been rough,” he said.
Pinder added, “This COVID just came and finished everything off.
“But thank God I’m back working, so I can try. Just being able to work is a good thing.”