St. George’s Business Owners Call For Change

February 24, 2022 | 2 Comments

[Updated] A group of St. George’s business owners “have set their sights on improvements they feel need to be made to town infrastructure before the summer season.”

St. George’s Group Statement

A spokesperson for the group — that when asked provided a list of  21 businesses they said they represent — said, “A large group of St. George’s business owners that came together to put on collective events and advocate for themselves have set their sights on improvements they feel need to be made to town infrastructure before the summer season.

“Since 2020, the group has collaborated to host the very popular Shop n’ Stroll events and shopping contests, which received some support from the Corporation of St. George [street closure], the Bermuda Tourism Authority [graphic design] and the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation [poster printing/shopping contest].

“However they maintain that there is far more that could have been done for the town, and have written their Members of Parliament, the Corporation of St. George, the Bermuda Tourism Authority, the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation, the Department of Marine & Ports, the Minister of Transport, the Premier, and the Minister of Tourism to explain the challenges they’ve faced.

“Over the last two years, businesses around the world have faced unprecedented challenges. Here in St. George’s, things have also been dire. During this time, not one entity has reached out to us for meetings, a forum, anything. It has been extremely disappointing for St. George’s business owners to see that, instead of receiving support and being included in conversations about the strategic direction of the town, we’ve felt abandoned by infrastructure services and sometimes even received pushback on what we thought were simple requests.

“In 2021, we had a number of concerns, but two major issues were:

“Large cruise ships arrived in Dockyard with zero ferry service to St. George’s. When Viking Cruise Lines decided to cancel their St. George’s calls, despite requests for ferry service from Hamilton or Dockyard, none was put in place. So tourists were in Bermuda, but St. George’s missed out on an entire season unnecessarily.

“During the three weeks that we did have visitors from off of the Viking cruise ship, the Corporation of St. George did not revert back to their regular policy of pedestrianising Water Street during the tourism season. There have been no closures of Water Street since summer 2019 unless initiated by the businesses [which requires payment/sponsorship], even though this was an important part of our tourism plan because it adds to the safety and charm of visiting St. George’s.

“As we look forward to the summer 2022 season, we felt it imperative to be more vocal about our plans and concerns to hopefully raise awareness and receive the support we desperately need.

“A public ferry service, pedestrianising Water Street, and providing some entertainment are at the top of the list.

“Ferries are the only way that hundreds of people can be transported to the town at a time. The negative impact of not having a ferry last summer cannot be overstated. We have received confirmation that the NCL tender will run this summer, which is excellent news. However, we must also have a St. George’s public ferry [either from Hamilton or Dockyard], as this would make it possible for hotel guests, residents, and passengers on other cruise lines to use this service.

“So far, we have heard that there is a budget for the ferry [again, excellent news], but haven’t received confirmation. Rather than wait for the schedule to come out in April, we wanted to loudly reiterate now that we must have a ferry and ideally, this would include at least something on the weekend – St. George’s has not had this for several years.

“Signage in the town says that the street is closed from 10am to 4pm on weekdays, but the group explains that this has not been the case for two years.

“For whatever reason, the current administration of the Corporation of St. George has not been amenable to implementing their own policy, but the businesses of the town are adamant that it must happen this summer to ensure guest safety and create the desired atmosphere. Ideally the street closure could be extended into weekends as well, because that’s when residents come to the town and they enjoy that atmosphere as well. Businesses having to pay for the closures when it’s such an easy fix seems unnecessary.

“The group is also eager to work with anyone interested in hosting activities in the town. Music, art, theatrical reenactments – we need the town to come alive and want to work with tourism stakeholders and artists to create a plan. We intend to apply for tourism investment funding and would love to connect with anyone interested in hosting activities in the town.

“Although these are the near-term priority, the group identified some other issues which they hope to see addressed. Although the Corporation of St. George staff works hard to keep the town clean, some business owners and residents continue to place their bagged trash and boxes at central trash cans during times when there is no trash collection, including weekends when people are shopping.

“The Corporation recently put out a new trash policy but it doesn’t address this issue and although as mentioned, business owners and residents are to blame, we need some lidded trash cans, dumpsters, or something that at least keeps the trash out of sight and away from pests.

“The group also pointed out a number of boarded up and derelict buildings. There are strict historic preservation laws in place, yet somehow building owners are allowed to let their properties sit haphazardly boarded up or derelict, becoming safety hazards, eyesores and impacting our heritage status. We are hopeful that some action can be taken to engage with these building owners before the summer season, particularly those on York Street and near the Town Square.

“We are mindful of the many social and economic challenges facing our island. And, we believe that, with the necessary support, St. George’s can be part of the solution by creating jobs, celebrating our history and culture, enhancing safety and strengthening the community. We are asking the powers that be to give our beautiful historic town, Bermuda’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, the support we need to have a vibrant and successful tourism season.”

Corporation of St George’s Statement

In response, the Corporation of St George’s explained they sent this email below in response, which said, “Please note that this group has not reached out to the Corporation of St. George for a meeting in advance of the email or since.

“Please note the street is typically closed when the ferry is operational and the past 2 years there has been a Covid-19 pandemic. [no ferry…no street closure] Also note the signs says no parking at anytime and cars are parked illegally on a daily basis.

“The content of your email highlights issues outside of the Corporation’s remit. However, you are aware, there is already a structured framework in place for St. George’s businesses, the East End Chamber of Commerce. This organization has the ability to advocate on behalf of the businesses to the relevant Ministry partners. The Corporation representative attends this meeting on a monthly basis with the intention to keep abreast of and communicate with the businesses of the Town. Many of the members outlined as the St. George’s Stakeholder Group choose not to be members of this already established organization. However, I note that there are a few members from your group that are also Chamber members.

“Hence, it may be beneficial for your group to communicate your concerns via this organization as the Chamber of Commerce will be able to advocate on your behalf.

“Additionally, by your own admission the staff of the Corporation do a fantastic job in maintaining the Town, however some businesses and residents are not responsibly storing their garbage between collection days. This should be the responsibility of the landlords and business owners to provide adequate trash storage so as not to be placing trash out overnight to attract rodents.

“As you are aware, the Corporation of St. George is embarking on a Town Plan. A Steering Committee has been appointed and a representative from the business community is on the Committee.

“I also note that a representative from your stakeholder group is also a member of the Steering Committee. This demonstrates that the Steering Committee was constructed to be inclusive and you should utilize your Stakeholder Group representative to communicate your desires to the Steering Committee.

“Please be mindful, that like other businesses, the Corporation is also a business. We need to develop ways to become financially self-sustainable. To date the business and residents of the Town have enjoyed many services and infrastructure improvements without having directly contributed to the financial success of the Town.

“While progress is still ongoing, we are in hopes that both the residential and business sectors support the Corporation as we move forward to wake up the town, provide an updated infrastructure and then hopefully become an assisted resource for both residents and businesses to thrive.

“It is most unfortunate that you feel you need to resort to the media for recourse. Please note that if the Corporation is contacted by the media, the same sentiment will be expressed in our response.”

Update 11.20am: Bermuda Tourism Authority CEO Charles Jeffers II said, “The Bermuda Tourism Authority understands the critical importance of St George’s as a vital cultural asset for Bermuda and the world. We will continue to use our platforms to build interest and drive visitors to the community. What’s more we encourage local tourism entrepreneurs to provide unique, memorable experiences that will delight our customers and have provided funding for several St George’s based entrepreneurs, entertainment experiences and attractions over the years.

“Our Experience Investment Programme provides grants and marketing support for the businesses and will be launched again this March and we encourage businesses to apply. Nonetheless our support of individual tourism attractions is only one part of the puzzle and as an advocate for Bermuda’s visitors, we support the call for improved access to the town.”

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Comments (2)

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  1. Double s says:

    St. George’s voters voted out a Party that got a hotel built there for the first to,e I’m decades,, got a ferry running from cruise ships to dockyard to pennos wharf, instituted a 25 cents gas tax with proceeds going directly to other Olde Towne.

    The same electorate voted in a Party that blew up a hotel, closed the golf course, canceled ferry runs etc.

    I would say this is a prime example of you get what you vote for.

    Congrats.

  2. had all my jabs and booster says:

    The business owners could easily make the Council and Government sit up and take notice by simply shutting their shops.
    They won’t be losing revenue because they are not making any as it is now!
    Nobody will visit a Ghost Town which St.Georges very nearly became in the not too distant past.

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