Port of Spain malls closed, merchants sell outside

Downtown Owners and Merchants Association president Gregory Aboud
Downtown Owners and Merchants Association president Gregory Aboud

At least one Port of Spain mall was closed down by police on Friday, a day after new and tighter restrictions were implemented by the Prime Minister on Thursday.

The mall – Bradford City Mall – was the last of several walk-through malls and plazas that closed their gates in the capital, leaving business owners in the malls to stop business completely or sell their goods on the street.

John Saba, store manager at Bradford Mall, told Newsday the store partitioned itself off from the rest of the mall, but police still said it was in breach of the regulations.

“We were just visited by three officers who said we were in breach of the law and the building was designed as a mall. Even though we isolated the front from the back, it is still a mall,” Saba said.

“It is kind of unfair, because if it is a mall, you enter here (Henry Street) and you exit on Charlotte Street. But now we are no different from Rattans across the street, or Detour.

"The officers were a little ignorant, but we still complied.”

Stores like Detour remained open despite its ability to encourage foot traffic through the store. Other stores next to mall entrances remained open and undisturbed.

Saba told Newsday the store has a Facebook page on which it takes orders and advertises. He said he hoped the traffic online would be enough to keep the business going, but added that business was really slow.

“From the first lockdown there was a drastic decline,” he said.

Some mall store owners said they took their items and began to sell on the streets.

One Aboutique Mall store owner who calls himself John Johns, told Newsday he was selling his wares out of the trunk of his car.

“Keith Rowley didn’t care about what he did when he put those restrictions. We have to run the risk of getting robbed and hope that the men in town know you so they wouldn’t target you.”

Downtown Owners and Merchants Association president Gregory Aboud told Newsday all business owners were advised to do their best to comply with the new regulations.

“And they are doing that,” Aboud said.

At a media conference in Tobago on Thursday, Dr Rowley announced that as of midnight on Thursday, bars, restaurants, malls, places of worship, casinos, cinemas, theatres and nightclubs were to be closed.

The public service will only offer essential services according to the new restrictions. Flights to Tobago are limited to three times a day and the seabridge would only operate at 25 per cent capacity. Eco-tours are banned.


"Port of Spain malls closed, merchants sell outside"

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