Small business operators in downtown Montego Bay say it will take them up to a month before they can resume normal operations, following last week’s devastating flood rains.
The comments from the business operators contradict statements issued on Thursday by T’shura Gibbs, President of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, citing that small businesses were back in operation a day after rains pummeled the city, leaving many businesses swamped with floodwaters, mud and debris.
Supermarkets, haberdasheries, restaurants, cyber cafes, clothing stores and other businesses were all affected.
When the Western Mirror visited downtown Montego Bay on Friday, the small business proprietors related tales of financial woes.
Iesha’s Ice Cream Shop and Bar at North Gully was swamped, with music boxes, other equipment damaged, beds, other household items and food and liquor smashed and washed away. The operators said the damage runs close to eight million dollars and they are uncertain as to how soon they would be able to reopen.
Linton Beckford, operator of the popular Becky’s Cheers Bar at 1 William Street, said it was the worst flooding he has experienced in his 17 years at that location, leaving him with millions in losses.
“It was very bad. The water rushed in and turned over the fridge loaded with liquor smashing everything; other drinks were lost, slot machines, music boxes. My loss is estimated at 2.5 million for the goods from the bar. I also lost my Rav4 which the water washed away. It was worth 1.5 million,” he explained. He said that he could not put a timeline on when he would be able to recover and reopen.
Sabbioso Restaurant, operated by Sandrene Sancroft also took a beating, with the young university graduate now wringing her hands in despair, as she contemplates how to secure a loan to replace stove, pots, pans, food supply and other equipment she used in the restaurant.
“I will have to start all over and right now I do not know where or how to go about that,” she said.
Ewen Fung said his GP Wholesale on St. James Street could not reopen until a month’s time, leaving him stranded for the lucrative Christmas period. Similar sentiments were echoed by the operators of Yong Long Haberdashery on St. James Street.
Mark Sutherland, proprietor of Sutherland’s Wholesale, while he opened his establishment, he was only able to operate at 50 percent.
“My staff and I had to leap through the window when the water began to flood the shop to save ourselves from drowning.”
The raging flood waters also made things bad for Wesley Downer, a tailor with his shop at Long Lane (adjacent to Corner Lane), who now has nothing in his shop as every piece of clothing was either washed away or stained chocolate brown from the muddy waters which invaded the shop, rising to at least eight feet.
“I had so many people’s clothes now there is nothing. The sewing machine is not working and I don’t know what is the next move,” he lamented.
The situation was not as bad for North Street Cafe as Garnett Reid, who operates the restaurant, says he should be back in operation today if the road is properly cleaned.
The water came and swept away rice, flour and even overturned a pot of rice that was being cooked at the time.
The collective sentiment by the business operators was that they were now cautious, hoping and praying that the weather improves as another rain event could prove to be utterly devastating.