(CMR) Vendors at The Hamlin Stephenson Market At the Grounds on Huldah Avenue have had their daily rent increased by over 100% during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The move has now caused a rift with some of the vendors who are barely making ends meet. The rent was increased from $13 per day to $17 per day with no explanation given. This may appear like an inconsequential amount to most people but the vendors have shared that at this time of decreased profits it is a hard pill to swallow.
In June, shortly after the country began re-opening, the vendors received notification that the farmers' market board made the unilateral decision to increase the rent for stalls. The 131 per cent increase has raised eyebrows from many and some vendors have already pulled out of the location.
Edna Seymour (71) shared her concerns with CMR earlier this evening when she explained that after six years at the market she has been given an eviction notice for being vocal about the situation. Expressing her concerns has gotten her into trouble with Hamlin Stephenson, chairman of the farmers' market board, who issued her an eviction notice dated September 29. She continues to pay her rent and an attempt to pay towards the $630 additional fees was declined.
Vendors are now expressing that they are unhappy with the decision which was made with no previous notice and without consulting or meeting with the vendors. Seymour shared her concerns that the decision was also made during the covid pandemic when the economy and numerous people; including farmers were suffering. As a result, some vendors have already decided to no longer keep a stall at the market.
When CMR stopped by on Saturday afternoon the market was not busy and there were numerous empty stalls visible. Seymour shared that she is in her 70s and has no one to turn to for help. So she does her best to ensure she is able to pay her mortgage and basic utilities. She also shared receipts providing that she has continued to pay the stall rent but has refused to pay the additional $17 now being charged.
Any new vendors who do not have a farmer's market must pay $130 before obtaining vendor access to the facility. $100 of that is for the deposit required by the facility's board.
So far all attempts to have the matter resolved have been ignored. However, Seymour shares that she is not giving up and is hopeful that the government will reverse this decision.
This past week Premier Alden McLaughlin gave a passionate speech that this was not the time to raise prices for businesses because the end result would be that businesses would have to close their doors.