KINGSTON, Jamaica – Following the recent shutdown of racing operations at Caymanas Park due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), many small business operators in communities near to the racetrack have been negatively affected by the situation.
Two of these communities are Gregory Park and Independence City, which are widely recognised as the main areas of residence for those in horse racing world, given their proximity to Caymanas and the fact that many grooms, jockeys, and trainers live in these places.
Eric Needham, popularly known as “Smiley”, has been operating the well- known ‘Hot Spot’ restaurant near the racetrack at the Independence City entrance for the past six years.
“I have been operating this food shop for six years now and I have never seen anything like this in Jamaica before. The closest I have come to something like this was with Hurricane Gilbert in 1988.
“If the Government lock down the country for the rest of the year I will lock for the rest of the year, although the track provides me with 90 per cent of my business,” Needham said.
While Needham said the closure of the racetrack has put a major dent into his business, he respects the decision to close the Park to help to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“I take the closing of the track very bad myself, but at the end of the day this is sickness, and trying to prevent it is a positive step. Because, if this virus spread in Jamaica, we may not have the resources to deal with it. So, we have to work with the Government to rid the country of it.
“Let me tell you what I think about this thing; it put back people together, families together, friends together. One time there was a woman who used to say…what am I going to do? Now, it is what are WE going to do? It’s a number of weeks now since this virus is with us, so if we have to stay in for corona to pass, we just have to stay in.”
While recognising the losses his business will suffer, Needham is convinced that he has to play his part in keeping the coronavirus from spreading in Jamaica.
“Right now things licking hard, very hard. I cannot afford it, and things will get tighter. So, if I have to stay in, I will stay in. I have locked my business doors for 14 days now, and that is alright with me, and if I have to close it 14 days more, it will be OK with me.
“I am not looking for anything from the Government; if I get anything I will take it, but I am not going to them and say I use to make $100,000 when I know that was not so. I am good. I have 11 children and I live to see the last one leave high school and going to start college, and I would like to see this last one pass through college.
“One of my big daughters lives in the United States, 23 years now, and she is currently studying medicine online. New York she live and I talked with her since morning.
“I hope that the world, including Jamaica, will find a solution for corona, and the racetrack will open again, and I can open my business again and earn my money,” Needham said.