Today’s Editorial for January 29: Road closures

Lest we be accused of being unpatriotic, let us say from the outset that we wholeheartedly support the Cayman Islands honouring its national heroes.

The success of this country could not have come without the efforts and foresight of extraordinary men and women and we support having a national holiday to honour them.

We also agree that National Heroes Day should be more than just a public holiday where people get a day off from work. There should indeed be an annual ceremony to help people remember their heroes, just like there is the laying-of-the-wreath ceremony on Remembrance Day.

However, we believe that holding a National Heroes Day event that requires the closure of busy roads in central George Town for three and half days is taking the ceremony a bit too far.

Not getting into the cost to the taxpayers of this year’s National Heroes Day ceremony – for the exact cost has not been made public yet – we do know the event has reached a level of extravagance that requires some 60 hours of set-up beforehand.

The problem is the lengthy set-up and sheer size of the venue required the closure of three busy streets in George Town from Friday evening right through Tuesday morning. As a result, businesses on those three streets suffered.

Making matters worse was the fact that several business owners reported that they did not find out the streets would be closed until Thursday or Friday.

This is the second time in a little more than a month that key roads in George Town were closed to facilitate an event and both times businesses owners have complained about the shortness of the notice.

Although many of the businesses were open on Saturday and Monday, most reported large drop-offs in sales because customers could not get to them. Yes, customers could have parked and walked to the businesses on the closed roads, but this just isn’t a popular option here in Cayman – there aren’t that many places to park downtown.

The drop-off in sales was so significant on Saturday that some businesses did not even bother to open on Monday, despite there being two cruise ships in town.

In the difficult economic times we now face, businesses can ill afford to lose sales. Landlords did not reduce the rent of George Town building rentals by three days just because of the National Heroes Day celebrations.

Restaurants in particular saw a large decline in business, even with the large crowds in town. Few people, it seems, wanted to buy food when someone else was giving away free food a short distance away.

We can only hope that if future National Heroes Day events are as elaborate as this year’s, that the event organisers work more closely with all the businesses in the area to help mitigate the negative impacts felt as a result.