Carnival vendors complain about illegal vending, late licences

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Carnival Entrepreneurs Association president David Baptiste after he received his licence to sell alcohol at the Queen’s Park Savannah. – Photo by Paula Lindo

Vendors at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain, are already complaining of poor sales, competition from illegal vendors, the delay in getting their liquor licences and a lack of police.

Newsday spoke with several vendors on Sunday. They said they were not happy the Judiciary only began accepting special event liquor licence applications on Saturday.

In a media release, the Judiciary explained the setback. It said the delay was no fault of the Government Printery which”worked assiduously to publish the order to make the delivery of licences to the vendors possible.”

It said the printery depended on the relevant agencies to provide it with information and published the notice “without delay when the information is made available.”

On January 27, the Judiciary accepted applications for the vending of alcohol at the savannahat the Hall of Justice, Port of Spain. It said the new period for the special event licences were only published on Friday. These licences will be valid until February 14.

On Sunday, vendors said because of the delay to get their licences, they could not stock up on alcohol in time for Sunday’s Panorama semifinals.

Violet Francis, who has been vending in the savannah for Carnival for almost 30 years, said, “It pushed us back where when we could have been doing other stuff, we have to be running back and forth.”

She said while some vendors started buying alcohol in advance, they are taking a chance.

“For Christmas, they will start buying and putting it down, because you might have a little special within that time. But the majority of drinks will be purchased when we get the licence because if Customs and Excise officers come around, they can clean you out (if you don’t have a licence).”

Francis and other vendors said sales were poor. They said they believe this is partly because of the number of illegal vendors around the savannah.

Michael Prescott said it was unfair they were paying “thousands” for the use of the booths built by the National Carnival Commission while those vending illegally were not being moved.

Former secretary of the Carnival and Savannah Vendors Association Grace Richardson said the relevant authorities must pay attention to this issue.

“The people in authority supposed to enforce the rules. You can’t have these booths here and have me paying (rent) and when you come out to sell, somebody right in front of you selling the same products without a licence or anything.”

Vendors also raised the issue of security and said they are afraid to leave their stock in the booths at night.

Richardson said there were break-ins last year which resulted in vendors losing thousands of dollars’ worth of products.

They are also calling for an increased number of police officers in uniforms.

Newsday saw two police officers at the corner of Keate and and Frederick Street but saw none along the perimeter of the savannah where the booths are located.

However, one vendor said she still felt safe.

“I haven’t seen any police in uniform but I believe they have plain-clothes officers and I always feel safe in the few years that I am here because nothing ever really affect me in that manner.”