Small Bristol businesses fed up with constant graffiti tagging

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With its fountains switched off and traffic on a constant loop around the perimeter, Bristol’s Centre is, perhaps, not the draw that it once was. In fact, unless you’re a skateboarder or want to see the empty plinth where history was made, the primary reason to visit this island of concrete is to sample the dishes on offer at the small huddle of kiosks and food trucks next to the harbour.

Some of the people operating these food stalls have now spoken to Bristol Live about the “continuous” problem that they’re facing with graffiti tagging and how it impacts them as independent traders. One business owner said that although “there has always been tagging in the centre”, they are fed up with being targeted.

The trader, who did not want to be named for fear of becoming even more of a target, said: “Tagging all over Bristol makes Bristol look ugly. It’s not good graffiti; it’s not art.

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“We spend a lot of money on our premises, they’re not cheap, and they’re not cheap to run, and every time someone tags, it costs us money.

“It affects small businesses in a negative way. We also have to take time out of our days to clean it, because if we don’t, the council get on us about having graffiti on our shops.

“The cost of living also affects our businesses with the knock-on effect of the rising costs of products, and now we’re having to fork out for extra cleaning stuff and paint – paint’s not cheap! It has an impact, especially when it’s happening on such a continuous basis.”

‘Petty crime’

They said that part of the problem is that they feel the issue is not taken seriously by authorities. They said: “It’s such a petty crime that the police won’t even take a first look at it, let alone a second one.

“If the council was able to help clean it, like with the jet washer they use to spray down walls in the centre, that might help. But I think really it comes down to education, letting taggers know that what they’re doing really harms small businesses.”

An employee at a different eatery said that their property is also regularly targeted by graffiti taggers. They said: “We’re having a hard time scrubbing it out. Because it’s not like we always have the time to clean it immediately, and then it’s difficult to get off.”

Avon and Somerset Police does have a form people can fill in online to report damage to property by graffiti, but it advises: “If you want to report graffiti to be cleaned, contact your local council.” Bristol City Council’s own guidance states: “We always try to help residents and businesses to remove graffiti free of charge.

“If, for any reason, we can’t do this, we’ll talk to you about the possible options. There may be a charge for this service if the graffiti is large. We’ll only clean the graffiti after the owner agrees to the charge.

“Most people who graffiti or “tag” properties do it more than once. The police are building a database of graffiti and tags and their locations. This will help the police show a history of criminal behaviour and prosecute graffiti taggers more successfully.”

Another proprietor in the area said that despite being aware of some businesses being repeatedly targeted, they feel fortunate to have only been tagged “a couple of times.” However, they said that they experience issues with late-night revellers urinating on their premises “and worse,” leaving them to clean up the mess in the morning.

They said: “When I can’t stand it, I usually throw buckets of water at it and hope it flushes it away.

“But I can’t blame them because there aren’t any public toilets left. The nearest toilet is Arnolfini, but they’re not a public toilet; it’s a business! It must be doing their head in to have people walking in and out. And when it’s not open, what can people do?

“There used to be two underground toilets at either end of The Centre; the worst thing they did was get rid of them.

“I’ve seen this place deteriorate. I used to love it down here; they used to have the two islands and a lot of greenery. Then it used to be heaving down here when all the fountains were working, and tourists would come, but they kept breaking down.

“This area was a focal point before, somewhere where people came to sit down, have a coffee and pass the time of day, but who the hell is going to come and have a coffee here and watch the traffic going round.”

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