City Council removes vendors from outside Demico House

Last Updated on Sunday, 28 April 2024, 19:02 by Writer

Demico House after the vendors and their pallets were removed on Sunday, 28th April, 2024.

The Georgetown City Council on Sunday dismantled and carted off vendors’ stalls on the pavement around Demico House, Cornhill and Croal Streets and ordered sellers present to remove permanently, in compliance with a High Court order obtained by Banks DIH Limited.

The City Engineer, Colvern Venture said City Police would be deployed to the Demico House area to ensure vendors do not return in violation of the High Court order.

“The City Constabulary will have to play a major role in terms of ensuring that persons do not return to the location. If that is the case, we will have to come and remove them again but we’re hoping that we do not have to do a constant exercise,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.

None of the elected councillors was present during Sunday’s operation.

A cook for one of the vendors, known as Red Woman, said she would lose the opportunity to earn some additional money for her household. “Terribly! because that was my daily income. I used to work with her for years,” she said shortly after the metal stall was dismantled by a saw and loaded on a truck to be taken away from the Demico Car Park.

A vendor, who sold beverages there, said she was paying to sell there and so it was City Hall’s responsibility to find another location for her to sell. “If you are paying the Council money, they are supposed to find a place for you to go. Even though Banks DIH wants us to move, we are not saying we would not move but the Council is supposed to look after us, as vendors,” she said. The woman said her inability to sell outside Demico House would affect her “because I look (after) my two children off of my business without a father and they throw me off of a bed,” she said.

‘Scratchy’, a well-known beverage vendor outside Demico House, had no problem with the vendors being ordered to leave the area because “a lot of people—straight talk—start disrespecting the people’s business place and if you come around people’s business place, you have to be be careful with what you’re doing.” He recommended that vending in Georgetown be legalised and done in an orderly manner based on rules by the government and City Council. “You can’t vend and have a whole set of plastic and cardboard. That is not vending; that is shantytown,” he told Demerara Waves Online News. At the same time, he said he would continue vending outside Demico House even if it means returning to how he started 38 years ago—with 0ne case of drinks on the pavement.

“I will still vend. I have to vend. They isn’t anyone who will stop me from vending. I am going to vend, I have to find ways to vend,” Scratchy added.

The writ of mandamus was granted by Justice Navindra Singh about three weeks ago.

Under supervision by the City Engineer Colvern Venture and Town Clerk Candace Nelson and backed up City and national police, workers removed pieces of wood that were nailed to Demico House as well as several wooden pallets that vendors ply their trade on during weekdays.

After the pallets were removed from over the drain, hundreds of discarded plastic bottles and other types of waste were seen clogging up the drainage facility.

Mr Venture said notices of removal were issued twice to the more than 20 vendors on the pavement and the car park just in front of Demico. He said action was taken Sunday because several persons refused to move from the area. “What we are noticing: some persons complied, others didn’t comply so we are now going to enforce our part. We got to do our part after the final notice,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.

In January, 2024, the Chairman of Banks DIH Group, Clifford Reis had told shareholders that the vendors outside Demico House was affecting sales. “My fellow shareholders, the number of clients going into our restaurants of Demico House has decreased. We can’t even get into the IDIHO building now. The restrooms and the toilets are being abused,” he had said. “The company is losing finance at Demico House. The whole area is being abused and we just can’t continue to run a business under those conditions,” he had added.

Vendors around Discount Store, Regent and Wellington Streets, Georgetown were also expected to be removed on Sunday during the second operation.

Mr Venture said there were no pending court cases, but several other businesses have written to City Hall threatening similar legal action if the vendors are not removed from outside their premises. Those include Church’s Chicken near the Berbice Car Park, PopEye’s on America and Water Streets and Continental Agencies (Torginol). “Those are just a few other businesses who indicated their intent. If we don’t enforce the by-law, then they will actually take us to court,” he said.

The City Engineer recalled Chief Justice, Roxane George-Wiltshire saying during the court hearing on Discount Store’s application for City Hall to move the vendors, that the High Court would soon order that City Hall pay costs to businesses because it is the City administration’s responsibility to enforce the by-laws.

Mr Venture empathised with the inability of the displaced vendors to earn a livelihood at their usual places of business, adding that the Council would have to “look at ways and means to assist the vendors to at least allow them to earn.” At the same time, he said the administration’s task is to enforce the law.

Asked why City Hall waited until court orders were issued before action was taken to enforce the by-laws, Mr Venture said the administration had tried on its own but politics was a factor. “We have attempted on many occasions to enforce the by-laws. Of course, we have the challenge of the political aspect of it, as well as the social and economic aspect of it,” he said. He reminded that recent efforts to remove the vendors from outside Muneshwer’s, Water Street, resulted in “certain politicians indicating to the vendors ‘you could sell on the road or you could sell there’ so those are some of the challenges that the administration faces as it relates to enforcing our by-laws.”