Jamaica liquor, cigarette sales thrive

ST. CATHERINE, Jamcia – Larkland Gibson looks at ease as he throws back a few at the Higher Level bar on French Street in Spanish Town, St Catherine.

He’s been here for about two hours, with a handful of friends. The men are all over 40 and admit to using their trip to the bar to escape the monotony of home.

“It’s just a thing we do most evenings fi cool out,” said Gibson, leaning back in his chair. He puffs on a cigarette then shouts to the barmaid to pour another round.

They seem at peace inside this small, cobweb-infested pub, but the truth is, their troubles are plenty.

Gibson was recently let go from his job as a foreman when work dried up at the small home-construction firm in St Catherine where he had worked since 1998.

“It’s about a month now dem really tell me that I should look something else because dem might have to close down,” said Gibson.

But here, in this small, noisy bar, Gibson and the other men, all struggling with economic hardship, find respite and shy away from discussing troubles as they order round after round of liquor.

For Cynthia Miller, owner of the bar, this is good news.

“Everything get harder now. It always hard for poor people, but it even worse now. I don’t really want to say that it good for business, but it is true that people spending more since things start get worse in January,” she said.

Miller said that since the start of the year, all brands of rum, as well as cigarettes and energy drinks, had been selling faster than ever before.

“I don’t know where di people dem find the money, because I know some of the customer dem who start spend more, and I know dem don’t really have it, but some way somehow, dem find it. Even people who never used to smoke, start buy cigarette wid dem drink,” she said.

At the Low Cost pub in eastern Kingston, the story was similar. Barmaid Sherika Campbell said despite the recently announced increase in the cost of beer, she was not expecting a dent in business.

“From what mi really see so far, di people dem not going to give up dem drink. Di more dem raise it is di more dem forcing people to drink. Times too hard now, so people can’t do without dem drink or dem smoke,” she said.

Not all bar owners are raking in increased profits, however. Trudy Anderson, barmaid at Sher’s Bar in Yallahs, St Thomas, said things were not rosy.

“Since dem raise some of the liquor now, things kinda slow up. Di people dem just don’t have the money,” she said.

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