Hard times in The Gap

Joined: 5:23 PM - Aug 21, 2008

12:59 PM - Jan 28, 2012 #1

Sweet Potatoes bar and Restaurant still gets a moderate crowd on Saturday night with their Fiesta Latina concept. (Picture by Sharon Harding.)


Once a hive of activity, St Lawrence Gap may have lost its hold on partygoers in search of a good revelling spot.

Sunday, 1 a.m., and the SATURDAY SUN team was ready to leave. The streets revealed just a few locals – and even fewer tourists – making their way up and down the popular South Coast strip, dodging the hustling taxis that were more in number than patrons.

And even as patrons trickled in, several of them left soon after, complaining of the lack of activity to which they were accustomed.

Startlingly missing are the 37-year-old Ship Inn, the ever smoke-filled After Dark and the star dining Josef’s Restaurant.

Walking from the Dover Playing Field, you first see Sugar Ultra Lounge, an ultramodern and sophisticated nightclub, adjoined to the smart Rush Restaurant. They have taken over the dominant spot previously held by The Ship Inn.

Established in 1974, the Ship Inn was one of the longest standing and most popular nightclubs in The Gap.

In the August 26, 2011 SATURDAY SUN, Ship Inn managing director Graham Turner said then that local investors had bought the property that housed the entertainment and dining business, which had attracted some of Barbados’ leading bands and entertainers over three decades.

“Everything is for a time, and, of course, it is going to be a sad occasion to say goodbye,” Turner noted. He also said the decision to sell the property had been taken by his partners several years ago and had nothing to do with any downturn in business.

At Sugar Ultra, a supervisor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said things had been going well since the opening in December, “but the crowd could be better”. What probably doesn’t help bring in patrons is the strict dress code of club chic (no hats, no shorts, no trainers – a couple of people were turned away), the heavy cover charge and the ceasing of loud music after 2 a.m.

Dean Serrao, the managing director, speaking to the CBC Evening News during the official opening of the club last month, said the law enforced in 2008 under Chapter 289, Section 37A of the Highway Act, that permission to play loud music between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. is granted at the discretion of the Commissioner of Police, doesn’t bode well for his business.

He believes this policy needs to be relaxed, as The Gap is one of Barbados’ busiest entertainment areas and vital to tourism.

Serrao said the nightclub had invested heavily in the latest sound and lighting equipment, and, following the concept trend, offered “something special” on the three nights it opens – Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays – from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m.

Sitting outside the Sugar Ultra complex is Big Up International, a food vendor, who has been on that spot for the past 30 years. With his setup that includes burgers and hot dogs to pigtails and rice, he laments the drop in business.

“It’s all right, I guess. There is less people. Nowadays all the food don’ sell, so I cut back on what I prepare; and still I got nuff leftovers,” he said. Out from as early as 8 p.m., Big Up says he packs up around 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. – depending on the days.

Farther along are Pun De Grill (dining and light music) and Hal’s Car Park Bar, with a small crowd that came for the karaoke and drinks. Sandwiched between them, the club Lipgloss now shines brightly in the spot formerly occupied by After Dark.

There have been several tenants in the After Dark Complex – including Solstice 21, Club Platinum and Club NXS which took up residence in 2008.

Now, Dana Best and partner Irena Jones are looking to put Lipgloss, the newest kid on the block, on The Gap map, opening seven days a week, with concept nights and a permanent house deejay. In the five weeks since its soft opening with a revamped and remodelled look . . .Best says he relies on locals who frequent the club, mostly on weekends.

“Nightlife has changed so much! I’ve been coming into The Gap for years and the numbers have dropped – in both locals and tourists,” Best exclaimed.

He can’t put his finger on why, but he is urging authorities to push The Gap a bit more.

“More marketing will help. It’s like they forget about The Gap.”

Best says his club keeps the volume of music at a comfortable level and it closes at 4 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The other days it’s at 3 a.m.

Of the entertainment spots in The Gap last weekend, McBride’s had the largest number of patrons. At the only venue with a crowded dance floor and pulsating music, manager of the 15-year-old club, Marlon Brathwaite, assured us he was “usually busy every night”, with the better ones being Fridays.

Next to McBride’s is the Reggae Lounge, open seven days a week, and for which “business hasn’t been the same” since the enforced 3 a.m. shut off time for music. One of its proprietors, Herman Maloney, who gave his date of opening as 1993, told the SATURDAY SUN that with businesses and some residents complaining about the noise, the 3 a.m. closing saw it slowly started to go downhill, Maloney said, till it almost is “now kinda quiet”.

The despondent proprietor said that he didn’t know how much longer he could keep his club afloat, because compounding the low-level patronage was his being sued by a Gap hotelier.

“Partygoers traditionally come out from around midnight; so the 3 a.m. closing doesn’t give them any time to get into the party vibe, or allow the bar – the moneymaking arm of the club – to make any money,” said one clubber.

The area was upgraded for $8.6 million in recent years, as part of the Government’s Urban Renewal And Development Programme. Upgrades included a new boardwalk, street lighting, road paving and redevelopment of the Dover Beach area (new beach facilities and food and shopping kiosks).

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Joined: 7:24 PM - Jul 23, 2008

9:40 PM - Jan 28, 2012 #2

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The Nation’s Online Editor Carol Martindale looks at What’s Trending today in Barbados.

The hard times being experienced by some vendors and business owners in the St Lawrence Gap is what readers are talking about today.

The drop in business, the reduction in the numbers going through that Christ Church tourist belt and the policy as it relates to loud music in the Gap are the issues being discussed.

This what some are saying:

Sharon Woolley: “When will everyone understand, there is a recession. Tourism might be up but I bet that's because of cruise ships, and they only stay for the day. People cannot afford evenings out apart from a rum shop, so don't waste your time looking for lots of tourists …”

Kim Clarke: "Businesses in the Gap CANNOT prosper with that loud music rule. The Gap is advertised as the party strip of Barbados. if persons visiting want peace and quiet then they should go on the West Coast. Why should locals and club owners be disadvantaged because persons do not want loud music straight till morning. The Gap has traditionally been known as the place to go if you want a good party. You could get some rest then go out around 1 or 2 and party till the sun comes up. Now if you go at that time it makes no sense to even go into the club because with two spin arounds, you are leaving. Makes no sense. Governments is always pushing entrepreneurship but on the other hand killing what little business people are trying to create.”

Paula-May Batson: “Iagree with Kim. I've been going to Brim for years and always stay at the Gap. I come on holiday to party and enjoy myself. I don't normally come out until 11:30 - 12 pm. With the music stopping at ‘2ish’ it's not worth coming out. I love Barbados but we are now holidaying and partying in Jamaica now."

Archangel Crichlow-Daniel: "I do not even really party in The Gap any longer. The atmosphere just is not the same anymore. Such a pity, it is one of the popular tourist spots. Reggae Lounge being one of my favourites in The Gap, but now much has changed. Such a pity."