Bay Street businesses are already feeling the impact of the closing up of open space which for years has been used as a parking lot and an open access point to Carlisle Bay.
Many of the owners, including the well-known Copacabana Beach Club believe the change is just part of an ongoing push to develop the beach and recreational area where tourists now outnumber locals.
Some, with longstanding commercial interests are eagerly awaiting the area’s total revolution, while others fear it could also spell danger for the longstanding small businesses around Nelson Street which are currently owned by “poor people”.
Following the Barbados Tourism Investment Corporation’s four-million-dollar sale of the plot to developer Allen Kinch the entire space once used by Copacabana’s patrons, other nearby shops and beachgoers has been enclosed, leaving only a small area for pedestrian beach access.
During a recent address, Prime Minister Mia Mottley criticised the decision to erect a fence noting that “Bajans who want to go to the beach used to park there, and they cannot be prevented from going on one of the most magnificent beaches in Carlisle Bay, because a fence is there.
But area resident Anthony Tudor, who works at the Smithy’s Bar, was struggling to understand why the Prime Minister was complaining about the fencing when the land had been sold by a Government agency.
Tudor told Barbados TODAY: “I am a bit confused. Why would the Government sell something, why would Government now want to come and tell them what to do with it?”
“There was parking and easy access to the beach but now it’s a hassle because some people don’t walk all around and there is already competition down the road, so we will be cut out. That is what is happening now.”
Tudor, who has been living and working in the area for around 15 years, said he is appalled at how much the once forbidden Bay Street is now being transformed into a tourist hub. He expressed the hope that with its transformation, the fortunes of low-income small business owners would also turn around.
He said: “Development in the area is okay because everything changes but the public and the poor man will be affected.
“Right now, out here only one set of people are getting all the money.
“You have Harbour Lights, Boatyard and Copa. Those are the people making all the money.”
Next door to his establishment is the Mad Pub Bar where owner Adrian Simmons worried the swift changes won’t only affect him but his customers who frequent the nearby Nelson Street area at night.
He said: “When they are looking for someplace to park at night, there is nowhere to park and it will affect me to a certain extent because people will not want to walk certain distances around 2 or 3 a.m.”
But he added: “It is not my carpark and it was never really mine. I always thought it was just a government thing.”
With the promised Hyatt Hotel to go up nearby, Simmons acknowledged that the area has changed dramatically from how he remembered it as a boy living in the Bayland when almost the entire street was an open window to the sea.
Simmons told Barbados TODAY: “I used to walk and go down into the cut wall and go straight across to the beach.
“Then Harbour Lights set up business, walls were erected, and you had to go around and other businesses followed.”
Noting that the month of January was one of his most difficult periods, Simmons expressed hope that a project like the Hyatt Hotel would improve commerce on Bay Street.
Sounding an optimistic tone, he said: “I think projects like the Hyatt will make The City better. I have never seen a hotel in The City.
“Most people now need a taxi to come into the city from their hotels at night.
“I think if people could come and stay in The City, more people would come and enjoy it.
“I expect further development in the area will ensure that things get even better.”
At the more popular Copacabana, which employs over 50 people and operates a beachfront departure lounge for Virgin Atlantic’s passengers, owner Raj Chatrani has already started to look for new parking areas, which would be announced later this week.
In response to the parking changes, he said: “It will work itself out. I saw it coming, so it didn’t exactly catch me by surprise.”
While appearing on a recent edition of Voice of Barbados’ Early Business programme he stressed the entire area needed to be reconceptualised and would require a unified approach which prioritises the upliftment of the longstanding buildings and businessowners in the area.
Chatrani said: “There’s a whole master plan to put down rooms and accommodation in the area which is great and good, and I think that will bring life to the area.
“But in that process, we also need to think about how that will impact the neighbourhood.”
He suggested that the creation of tours through Nelson Street would add give the area a much-needed lift.
He said: “If we build all these hotels, people also need to be able to have a good time in the area around it which we have to evolve.
“I am on the outside looking in and seeing a way in which we can mix the heritage of the neighbourhood into its evolution.”