Stadium vendors overjoyed at end to DRMA restrictions
After a two-year hiatus, stadium vendors are thrilled to be able to resume their livelihoods, expressing that they are looking forward to refilling their pockets to make up for all that has been lost due to the financial strain brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and its restrictions on various industries.
This comes in light of the removal of the Disaster Risk Management Act (DRMA) restrictions which were announced last Thursday, where venues are allowed to accommodate up to 70 per cent of their capacity.
Well-known top vendor Sidia Brown, who has been in business for more than 16 years, is overjoyed at the opportunity to cash in on sports.
PICKING UP THE PIECES
“I know I will pick up the pieces. It’s going to take me some time, but I know I will pick up the pieces,” Brown said in a Gleaner interview on Saturday.
As a mother of four boys, the Waterhouse Stadium vendor explained that the closure of the sports sector and the lockout of spectators had been devastating, causing many of her bills to accumulate and fall overdue.
Sporting events were halted because of the pandemic, but the doors swung open for many disciplines last December, albeit with the caveat of a spectator ban.
The absence of fans has drained sports of its colour and cash, starving teams of the energy to lift performances and the financing to maintain budgets.
The horse-racing industry was a notable exception. It was allowed to reopen months ahead of other sports and spectators were allowed, regardless of COVID vaccination status.
“[It] was very difficult to pay bills. I lose my Internet, I lose a lot of things because I couldn’t afford to pay the bills,” Brown said.
“I couldn’t pay my rent, [and] I moved four times since COVID,” she added.
Brown, who reportedly earned up to $80,000 per football game in the gritty southern St Andrew community, saw her income tank when she had to resort to selling goods in front of her gate.
This, she said, was challenging, as she had to compete with local corner shops and sometimes would earn only $3,000 daily.
“That is nothing to what I sell at the games,” she exclaimed.
Brown told The Gleaner that she would often travel to all Jamaica Premier League (JPL) football games, especially those featuring high-profile local teams like Arnett Gardens, Tivoli Gardens, Harbour View, and May Pen Humble Lions.
A MAJOR BLOW
“With the pandemic over almost two years now, it did a lot of damage, so losing the football games at my home stadium (Waterhouse) and the away ones was a major blow. I trouble with high blood pressure now because of not achieving the things that I need to achieve. I can’t maintain myself and my kids dem like how I used to, so it was a major blow for me,” Brown said.
However, with COVID-19 infections plunging over the last month, Brown is optimistic that she will be able to get back on her feet – even if it’s not as quickly as she would like.
Velta Bryan, who was the only vendor present outside Sabina Park on Saturday for a JPL match, said that she, too, was relieved at the prospects of a revival for vendors. A seller for more than 20 years, Bryan said that the removal of the DRMA orders is the beginning of the rebuilding process.
Bryan, who is better known by her nickname ‘Nicki’, has pledged to work hard, “three times as much as I used to, just to survive and reach back to the level [to] clear the debts I have.”
She also encouraged other vendors to expand their product offerings, but warned of unexpected circumstances.
Bryan also advised that all vendors continue to follow the COVID-19 protocols of sanitisation and wearing of masks, as the pandemic has not officially ended.
Kimeshia ‘Biggie’ Dawkins is also thrilled to be able to earn from football matches.
“When the match come now, you know say everybody a go come out, so ya go sell a good money,” the vendor said.
Dawkins said she would typically earn up to $30,000 per game, with favourable match days generating income of up to $70,000.
“Mi feel good, because when them have match, your bills dem don’t pile up. One match can cover all two, three bills,” she said, adding that she has long awaited the chance to tap an income from the sporting industry.