Curfew interrupts life in Olympic Gardens
In Olympic Gardens these days, ordinary living is defined by curfews. A state of emergency is entering its 11th week and reviews are mixed. Residents of the area, especially business operators and those whose income is dependent on night life activities, what many call the 'hip strip' of South St Andrew, are concerned about the long-term impact on entertainment events in the community.
Nonetheless, the feedback received when The STAR visited the area last Thursday, involved some sense of hope that the government and law enforcers could use this period to reduce the level of violence, and return the area to the pre-curfew days. Miss Julie, of the Olympic Square Bar, said the only problem she has is getting home before the imposed 9 p.m. lockdown, and explained that the number of customers had already dwindled before the state of emergency measures were announced by Prime Minister Andrew Holness on July 7. This comes fours years after Holness had celebrated a decline in crime in his West Central St Andrew constituency community in his 2015/2016 budget presentation and stated plans to brand the area as a commercial and entertainment hip strip.
"The bar usually closes off by 11 p.m. in the week sometimes, but now we lock off at 9 p.m. and the problem is to get home early," Miss Julie shared.
She continued: "The lock-off time is dependent on the customers, but most of them not even staying to have a drink, especially when war going on. Every minute gunshot fire, so instead they prefer to make their purchase and go home, because people 'fraid when them ah go home them going to get shot."
Another resident said that the state of emergency was not only affecting business owners on the Olympic Gardens 'hipstrip,' but also those who go out at nights to seek income.
"There are persons who work at events in Kingston and St Catherine, who have jerk pans or mek soup fi sell at street parties. not even that can happen again because dem risk getting picked up by police or soldier if dem on the road after certain hours," he said.
Further down Olympic Way, at the headquarters for All-Star Thursday, one of the staple street parties, The STAR caught up with Joy Coke, who takes charge of the event affairs.
"At least four or five parties happen every night on this stretch - it really is the hip strip - normally All-Star Thursdays would be running and there would be a busy schedule for the bar, cookshops and for other vendors," Coke said.
She says that since the state of emergency the weekly events have cut off because it is not feasible to have them earlier than the usual time.
"Nowadays, as soon as Cash Pot number call at 8:30 p.m. most people leave the bar and go home, and if they don't we are reminded by the flashing blue lights signalling to get off the street," she said. "Or if you try to have an event, the police will come to turn it off and some people get taken away. Other than that, the people trying to work with them, we really don't have a choice," she said.