George Town is becoming like so many inner cities in the United States and elsewhere as the economy worsens and businesses move to the fringes of the capital.
We’ve seen the closure of Colombian Emeralds, gaping spaces for rent in the West Wind Building, a handful of units at the Royal Watler Cruise Ship Terminal and a large unit on Fort Street.
Basically, business is down around 30 per cent downtown.
Blame it on the economy.
Blame it on the lack of tourism.
Blame it on more shopping options away from the bustling downtown that is George Town.
But the bulk of the blame can be laid squarely at the feet of those who decide to close shop as soon as the clock strikes 5pm or shortly thereafter.
George Town has the potential to be so much more than it is.
Take the Christmas season, for example.
True, most cruise ships are gone by 5pm so shop owners aren’t looking to that demographic to put coins in their coffers. But what about the people who live in the Cayman Islands? Usually we have to wait until the third week of December for later store hours to Christmas shop in town unless we want to fight heavy Saturday traffic and deal with crowded shops.
Throughout the year many of us need to trek downtown to buy gift certificates or gifts for special occasions such as births, weddings, baptisms and anniversaries.
Fighting large crowds at lunch time means headaches and hunger, because once you’ve found a place to park and complete your purchase there’s no time left to do what lunch hour is intended – eat.
One solution could be to extend shopping hours for one night a week.
That would help.
But what really needs to happen is for George Town to morph into the place people want to be after dark.
Plans are in the works for a restaurant to go in at the cruise terminal by December. That will help draw locals to the area, but it’s not enough.
Business owners in George Town need to come together to find ways to make the downtown district attractive to visitors and residents alike once the sun sets.
Rolling up the sidewalks at 5pm should be a thing of the past in 2009.
We wrongly predicted in 2005 that with the advent of Senor Frogs and Margaritaville joining the ranks of Hard Rock Café along with remodelling of the West Wind Building and renovation of the Anchorage Centre that central George Town would undergo a metamorphosis, turning it into a place where visitors and residents would flock to every night of the week.
Unfortunately we were wrong. We implore the business owners to prove us right.