Today, nearly 13 of the 15 Maracas bake and shark vendors may face eviction due to their unpaid arrears.
Last week, the Ministry of Tourism issued letters to vendors that line the popular strip of sand warning of a breach of Licence agreements due to outstanding arrears.
The letter, obtained by Guardian Media, was issued on April 19 and gave vendors seven business days to pay all outstanding arrears by April 28. If payments were not made in full, the Licence would be terminated, and the ministry may initiate legal action to recover outstanding fees.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the nation’s beaches and restaurants have been periodically closed, halting business in Maracas.
Vendors said they’ve seen sales drop by as much as 80 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Maracas vendors, who spoke to Guardian Media asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution, said the pandemic made it challenging to keep up with rental payment. Maracas Beach was closed for nearly five months in 2020. With the beach closed again in 2021, vendors said the lack of traffic has affected sales.
The vendors said they have gone to the Ministry of Tourism, asking for leniency to work out a payment plan, but were laughed out of the ministry’s office.
But according to the Minister of Tourism, Randall Mitchell, these arrears extend well before the pandemic. In his response to Guardian Media, he explained, “there are several Licensees who are in breach of their Licence’s owing to the nonpayment of rent for many months even though all licensees received rent waivers for about five months in 2020.”
He added that the Ministry is actively engaging with licensees to rectify several ongoing breaches such as the nonpayment of rents before the renewal of Licences which takes place soon.