For more than three decades Merriman’s Mall, originally constructed as a rink to accommodate what, in those days was a popular go-cart and scooter craze, has been the site of choice for fruit and vegetable vendors.
Two weeks ago the vendors had their stalls dismantled by City Council workers allegedly for being in breach of the trading agreement which they have with the municipality.
When Stabroek Business visited the site on Wednesday vendors were wondering aloud as to whether this newspaper could plead their case with the council. Interestingly, they appear to begin by conceding that on this occasion City Hall may be within its right to frown on the vendors’ posture.
The vendors who now occupy the mall – at least some of them – used to ply their trade on what was then the John Ford Car Park. The current agreement with the council, according to the vendors themselves, allows for trading from Wednesday at 11:00 hrs to Thursday at 17:30 hrs. Vending then resumes on Friday at 15:00 hrs to Saturday evening.
Over time, the vendors have been bending the rules, taking up occupancy of the mall before the agreed time and extending their trading beyond the agreed end of the trading day. In their defence, the vendors say that they occupy the area prior to the appointed time in order to set up their stalls though they do not deny either that some stallholders begin trading before the appointed time or remain on the mall long past the appointed departure time. They acknowledge these transgressions but claim that they need more time to “sell out” their goods.
The vendors agree that the passage of time and the indulgence of the council may have made them indifferent to the rules and two weeks ago City Hall sought to jog their memories. Two Fridays ago, a City Hall enforcement detail showed up at the mall and, citing the particulars of the agreement, required the vendors to dismantle their stalls and wait until the start of the designated trading day.
The vendors, who told Stabroek Business that they are now required to sit and wait until the appointed time, say that a new agreement that allows them greater latitude would be better for business. It is, they say, a matter of negotiating a new deal. They point out, for example, that they arrive at the market early in order to “catch the wholesalers” after which they want to begin trading before the heat of the day begins to discourage customers.
That apart, the vendors are seeking to begin trading one hour earlier – at 14:00 hrs rather than 15:00 hrs on Fridays – in order to maximise their trading on what, customarily, is a brisk trading day.
Stabroek Business was unable to contact either City Hall’s Public Relations Officer Royston King or Acting Town Clerk Carol Sooba on Wednesday though the vendors have indicated that in the light of City Hall’s action of two weeks ago they will now be writing to the municipality in order to negotiate a new occupancy agreement.