'Lonely' Gap

Junction road closure stifles business in Friendship Gap

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Observer staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

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SMALL business operators in Friendship Gap, St Mary, say they have seen a decline in sales as a result of the daily closure of the Junction main road, which is currently undergoing improvement works.

Business owners told the Jamaica Observer during a visit to the usually busy rest stop last week that the six-hour period for which the road is closed is excessive, as potential customers who traverse the thoroughfare is the main source of income for residents in surrounding communities.

“Di place really, really bad. Yuh nuh see seh nothing nah gwaan? Di place a ghost town now. Nuh care how times slow, things woulda still gwaan fi wi. Now, things dead, dead, dead.

“Wi did think seh things woulda pick up inna di evening, but it still don't pick up. People not making any profit and wi have bills fi pay. Yuh have yuh likkle overheads and yuh have staff fi pay. If di food nah sell, you a lose enuh. You nuh have nuh profit a mek,” owner of Junction Halt Restaurant, Snack and Bar Karen Watt told the Observer.

Additionally, Watt said business owners were not informed about the closure of the road. According to the woman, who has been doing business in the area for more than a decade, she learnt of plans to close the road from members of the community.

“Mi think dem should a sort out something else before dem block di road like that. If dem did even call wi together and keep a meeting, and get wi feedback, people wouldn't so upset. But not a word in English we hear. A just pure hearsay, hearsay until it close. If wi never hear wi woulda cook di big amount of food wi usually cook. Dem slack bad,” Watt said.

The National Works Agency (NWA), in a press release a week ago, informed that the road is to close for six hours a day from Broadgate to the Westmoreland Bridge to accommodate road improvement.

Vehicular access was first restricted on July 30, in a bid to safely advance rock excavation activities along the corridor.

But Bridgette Edwards is not accepting the notice put out by the NWA, arguing that time and profit lost will set back her back-to-school preparations.

The vendor told the Observer that sales have dropped significantly, because she has to cook a smaller than usual pot of soup.

“Say for instance we usually sell five packs of cups, now wi only selling one. Twenty-five come in di pack, so calculate and see how much wi losing out here. Wi lose a whole lot of customers. Look at it this way, some divert not to come back this way,” Edwards said.

However, businesses were given a break on Saturday following an announcement by NWA that it would halt road closure up until yesterday, to accommodate motorists travelling for the holiday period.

NWA Acting Manager, Communication and Customer Services, Ramona Lawson, in a follow-up news release said that the road will be reclosed today at 9:00 am and the existing six-hour daily closure will obtain.

The six-hour daily closure is to remain in place for the next four months, Lawson said.

The announcement comes in the wake of objection from Opposition caretaker Dr Shane Alexis, to the indefinite closure of the road.

Alexis, in a statement last week, had said that while he is in support of the general improvement of roads across Jamaica, he felt that it was necessary to tell motorists how long they were expected to be inconvenienced as a result of the closure.

The spin-off effect has left owner of Oriental Fried Chicken (OFC) Stanley Shaw in limbo as it relates to paying his staff.

“I was questioning the whole issue because I was hearing some monkey stories about them wanting to extend the closing time beyond 3:00 pm. It's ridiculous. We have to pay [electricity] bill, staff and everything. How will that work out? I can't understand. Is it that they are not taking the business community into consideration?

“No survey was done or anything. They just posted up a sign, 'the Junction road will be closed'. Do you see what is happening out there? It's a dead story. My workers are here sitting down and they have to be paid. It's terrible for business.

“If you look around the community you see all these people selling soup and stuff, they can't now. Everything is at a standstill. We can't lay off the staff. What do we do?” Shaw said, noting that he employs 17 people.

For Denise Nids, business cannot get any worse.

“It is really bad. The road closing has cut the days' sales big time. We weren't even told the road was going to close. We heard by the way from people saying that it is going to be closed. I just try to come out a little earlier to beat the 9 o'clock closure. Since Monday (July 30) is one and two sales I getting. I'm worried because I hear it's for four months and it's back-to-school time now so I'm very worried,” the soup vendor said.

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