Thu | Feb 25, 2021

Jerk-pan vendors feeling the COVID heat

Published:Friday | December 25, 2020 | 1:35 AMJonielle Daley/Gleaner Writer
Wayne Morgan preparing jerk chicken along Red Hills Road in St Andrew. The corridor is popular for both jerk chicken and pork.
Clive Cockburn serves up jerk pork along Red Hills Road in St Andrew.

As virus containment measures continue to shift while the country battles the novel coronavirus pandemic, the usual night-time jerk-pan culture has had to adjust accordingly. Like others, pan men on Red Hills Road have had to make a paradigm shift because of evening curfews.

Wayne Morgan, the first-place winner for Kingston and St Andrew in the CB Pan Chicken competition in 2016, shared that it has been a rather difficult time for him since the onset of the pandemic.

“A whole heap me lost, for sometime police a run we off a di road. Weh nuh sell haffi go put in a di fridge. Weh me pickney dem can eat, dem eat,” he said. Before the curfew, Morgan ran the jerk-pan operation from three in the afternoon to midnight. Now, he sometimes operates from one in the afternoon up until minutes before the curfew, whatever time it is. He emphasised that they have to be flexible for whenever it changes and though he sometimes gets sales during the lunchtime period, it is unreliable as “people have restaurant fi buy out and dem things deh, so you can't come out before the time.”

Even in this time of uncetainty with the constant readjusting of hours and the cancellation of CB events that he would sometimes sell at and having to purchase two laptops for his children to attend school online, Morgan, known to most as Rumpus, has committed to giving all five of his employees a Christmas bonus.

“If me can put food pan a table, if it’s even one Sunday or two Sunday, me feel good within me self fi know say me a come from off a di ground and a come help somebody,” said the resident of Bog Walk Drive, Red Hills Road.

One of the few women along the strip told The Gleaner that she makes at most 50 per cent of her usual sales, though her work hours have not been disturbed as much given 10 o’clock is her usual time to leave for home.

Tasha explained that though it's currently the same time span, she still has fewer sales and claims the 7 o’clock curfew works out best for her.

“The 7 o’clock curfew more better than the 10 o’clock cause you find say you get more sales when people a rush fi go home,” she shared.

While Morgan and Tasha bemoan their loss, Clive Cockburn is quite content. He said, “pork is always sure.” Cockburn expressed that his sales remain the same once he comes out from one.

“The thing just change up inna di favour a me because normally me use to come out 4:30, 5 o’clock,” he said, “ now when 6 o’clock, 7 o’clock me ready fi go a me yard,” unlike the majority of the others selling jerk chicken. The only change that has been made for Cockburn is the price of his jerk pork as the price of the ingredients such as pepper has increased from $400 to $800 per pound. He shared that large orders for some 20 pounds of jerk pork continue to roll in.

While some wonder about the life of the night pan jerk industry after the virus has rolled over, Morgan and the others wait with high expectation for the day of free roaming because they believe things will pick back up.

He expressed that things will not remain slow or stop for pan jerk because “when Kentucky lock a night-time, a different thing.” However, violence from 100 Lane and Park Lane has put a damper on their profits.

“Sometime when the killing gwaan pan de road, we nuh get much sales up da side ya, fa true police haffi block off and divert,” said Morgan. He said it is a harder hit on profits, particularly when killings take place in the evenings. The two neighbouring lanes have had a continuing history of gang wars between them.