Vendors upset with Chamorro Village's fee changes
Sonny Orsini has been selling his popular smoked meats out of Asu Steakhouse in Chamorro Village for the past two years. However, a change in fees may change all that. "We are one community-based development, but with this excessive and unjust increase, will shut down all the businesses including mine down, we will not be able to survive," he explained.
Orsini says vendors have been told by Chamorro Village management that along with changes to rental payments, a common area fee will be applied as well. "The common area fee is very new to all the food vendors here at the village, I think also the craft vendors, the common area fee is in excess of our current fee and then on top of that, our rent fee is $200 more, so combined it's shy of $2,000," he detailed.
While the Department of Chamorro Affairs could not confirm specific details, vendors have indicated that a common area fee of over $800 would be applied to vendors for a 200-square feet unit. Some vendors occupy more than that amount. "With very minimal notification and zero input from the vendors, it's a very anti-local, anti-small business measured, and it's very shortsighted," Orsini stated.
Speaker Judi Won Pat met with Department of Chamorro Affairs director Joseph Cameron today. She says the increase is part of an audit on the agency released by the outlining discrepancies and spending. "And they're basically in a hole," the speaker summarized.
She says part of helping with the finances, Chamorro Affairs was advised to implement rules and regulations that have been in existence for years but never applied. Won Pat says the common area fees are high and is proposing a gradual increase instead, adding, "I think that's what's bothering the merchants because it's going to be too fast and too quick, so I asked him to go back to crunch some numbers to really look at actual revenues, expenditures going out and how quickly we can start the bleeding."
Orsini said, "We're all about following the law, but it seems they're taking it out on the vendors such as myself for their inadequate leadership."
Meanwhile for Dione Young, who is one of eight people who operate the Guam Art Boutique, this change is very concerning. "I know Chamorro Village is an incubator program that was set up to help small businesses start up and I think this will definitely shut out a lot of people here in the village," she said. She says besides the Wednesday Night Market, foot traffic at Chamorro Village has been slow since opening three months ago. Plans to expand and occupy extra space now no longer seems plausible.
"This will definitely put a kibosh on that ," Young projected.
The Governor's Office issued a statement saying the common area fees are part of the 1996 rules and regulations created for the Chamorro Village. They add this is part of a recent audit and the Department of Chamorro Affairs is trying to reassess the operations and the business conduct of the Chamorro Village. The Chamorro Village administration is willing to work with the vendors because the last thing they want to see is any business close down.
The Governor's Office adds the Chamorro village is meant to be an incubator and encourage business, but it's also meant to be able to sustain itself and at this point they are losing money.