Guam- A local shopping center is making a proactive effort to infuse downtown Hagatna with new businesses and partner with the local government to better serve the community. However, major roadblocks remain in realizing the potential of Hagatna’s revitalization.
“The revitalization of Hagatna really is a phrase or mantra that is thrown around a lot,” said Marketing Manager C.T. McJohn. “But at Agana Shopping Center, we really wanted to do something about it and be progressive about it.”
The Agana Shopping Center is taking big steps to live up to the governor’s vision of revitalizing Guam’s capital city. McJohn tells PNC they are in the midst of opening new establishments for the community.
“We got some amazing new stores and restaurants coming in,” said McJohn. “Chatime, which is the number one bubble tea franchise in the world. We have a world class restaurant, Tapanade. Really cool concept ultra lounge that should be opening by the end of the year.”
McJohn says they are deep in negotiations with major franchises such as Panda Express and Subway to open at ASC as well. In addition, he mentions they have plans to open a Cultural Night Market and are seeking interested tenants, entertainers, artisans and craftsmen. They have also established a public-private partnership with Department of Public Works (DPW) as the location of the private school bus interchange. McJohn adds they are gifting a hard to lease space for the Guam Police Department’s CAPE program in a few months.
“We thought that it’s been sitting for a while and GPD could use it and their presence here will be welcomed and will just make parents feel safer as well as the school bus interchange,” said McJohn.
Despite their progressive steps, McJohn says it’s been challenging to obtain licenses from the Alcoholic Beverage Control board for some of their upcoming businesses because of the board’s lack of a quorum for months. He feels the government has fallen short in helping new businesses out.
“I think there’s 15 businesses that have been on the waiting list, including a number of restaurants that we are trying to open here,” said McJohn. “We really need to…that’s GRT. That’s stuff that could go back to the community. That’s new businesses and it’s important that the government really be adamant about helping these entrepreneurs succeed.”
Understanding the concerns of the Agana Shopping Center, Senator Mike San Nicolas says the ABC board now has 3 newly confirmed members and can establish a quorum. The board was supposed to meet this week, but they rescheduled their meeting to next Thursday, due to the 2 day closure of the Department of Revenue and Taxation.
“ABC board now has enough members,” said San Nicolas. “So the only thing now is whether or not the establishments that want to open particularly in Hagatna, Tamuning are going to be allowed to open based on the threshold laws that limit the number of alcoholic establishments based on population.”
According to San Nicolas, the number of establishments in Hagatna exceeds the ratio as specified by law. He says he has been working with the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association (GHRA) and other private businesses on the ratio limitation roadblocks.
While he has already introduced a bill, it has been sitting in committee. He wants to get the bill’s language together to satisfy all interested parties and a majority of lawmakers.
“This whole issue we were proactive about in April,” said San Nicolas. “Unfortunately, certain senators did not want to move it forward without having an additional hearing. Well, we had that additional hearing, all we had was oppositional testimony. So we have the bill in committee and we’re trying now to work with the interested stakeholders who want to move it out.”
McJohn believes the current ratio cap law is archaic and doesn’t apply to modern Guam. In the long run, he sees it as stunting the growth in the island’s revitalization and tourism numbers.
“It makes no sense to put a cap on ABC licenses,” said McJohn. “Really, we have so many visitors. We know other establishments throughout Guam have tons of visitors. In order to fully accommodate them, they’re on vacation, the restaurants, as long as they maintain a classy atmosphere, like we feel we do here at Agana Shopping Center, then there should be no problem in pulling and eliminating that ratio cap completely.”