The popular resort town of Ocho Rios, Jamaica is set to receive a coordinated revamp and clean-up ahead of the summer tourist season. Illegal vending has become a significant problem, and garbage is piling up as people neglect proper disposal methods. Michael Belnavis, Councillor for the Ocho Rios Division, has ordered local police to provide a constant visible presence during the revamp set to begin Friday, June 10th.
“We will be doing an operation on Friday, and we are hoping it will help to maintain some semblance of law and order. We will be removing vendors from the area of Dacosta Drive and Market Street and have them relocated back into the market. The market has space for vending. We spent over $10 million renovating places in the market to allow individuals to have a place to comfortably vend,” said Belnavis during a municipal corporation meeting that occurs monthly.
Belnavis went on to express his dissatisfaction with the current state of Ocho Rios. He called out the area’s business owners, vendors, and residents for neglecting their duty to care for the environment properly. He also mentioned the area’s garbage problem. He stated that the people in Ocho Rios have allowed the illegal vending to grow into a significant problem, and as a side-effect, trash is being dumped anywhere.
This isn’t the first time that Belnavis has spoken out about the issue of illegal vending in the Ocho Rios area. In January of this year, the councilor encouraged police to clear the streets of illegal vendors, noting that 98% of the vendors were not local to the area. He also spoke of another issue that the popular resort town Montego Bay is facing. Many food vendors are unaware of best practices when handling food and may not even hold a permit to vend food. In Montego Bay, less than 5% of street food vendors have food handling permits, as reported on April 20th, 2022.
The Mayor of Montego Bay, Richard Vernon, said in April that there had been complaints from patrons of various food vendors about food-borne illnesses. The illnesses were presumably picked up from unlicensed vendors. If the vendors in Ocho Rios are similar, travelers should be careful of what foods they try and which vendors they choose to use. Good hygiene practices, a clean workspace, and adequately cooked meats are all things to look for when deciding whether or not to try food from a street vendor.
The renovations to the Ocho Rios market that took place about two years ago were intended to keep vendors within the market so that there would be an organized place for tourists to shop. In the past, illegal vendors have set up in areas such as the parking lot or Dacosta Drive and Market Street, as mentioned above. This leads to visitors having issues finding a place to park and also issues with knowing which vendors are licensed and which are not.
For those interested in visiting the market, there is much more than just food to explore. Locally made crafts such as straw hats or figurines, T-shirts, souvenirs, jewelry, and gifts to bring home loved ones can all be found at the Ocho Rios Market. The market is within walking distance of restaurants and the Ocho Rios Bay Beach. Taxis frequent the area to take tourists back to their resorts when they are done shopping for the day.
The clearing out of illegal vendors and general clean-up of the Ocho Rios Market and surrounding area is great news for those planning to visit the area this summer season, as they will enjoy a wholly refreshed market experience. Travelers are still advised to be careful when it comes to choosing a street food vendor. However, they can take comfort in the fact that many permit-less vendors will be removed from the area or brought into compliance by the time they visit.
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