The law banning live music and alcohol sales past midnight on Saturdays will not be changed, meaning any Christmas Eve or New Years Eve celebrations at public places will have to end early this year.
In a statement to the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday, Minister of Tourism Charles Clifford said Cabinet had decided against changing the current law to accommodate New Year’s Eve this year, and that ‘the Government at no time considered (the) proposal with respect to Christmas Eve, as it is so contrary to the traditions of these Islands.’
Mr. Clifford said the issue of permitted hours for live music and alcohol sales on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve had attracted a lot of public attention.
With both nights falling on a Saturday this year it means the sale of alcohol and live music must cease by law before midnight.
Some businesses and members of the public proposed the two nights receive special consideration by amending the laws to allow festivities at public events to continue into Sunday morning.
‘The Government is fully aware that any decision, either in favour or against the proposal, will evoke significant opposition,’ he said.
Although the Christmas Eve proposal was not even contemplated by Cabinet, the proposal with respect to New Year’s Eve was thoroughly considered, Mr. Clifford said, adding that input from the ‘public and various organisations’ was taken into account.
As Mr. Clifford predicted, some members of the public were not happy with the decision, including Don Seymour, owner of the O Bar and the Attic.
‘I am very surprised and it is indeed very disappointing,’ he said.
‘The government devotes vast resources in sponsoring entertainment events such as Pirates Week and the Jazz Festival.
‘I think this proves they recognise the value of entertainment and its contribution to the quality of life in the Cayman Islands.
‘However, there is a disconnection because the government is failing to properly give incentives to the private sector to offer viable entertainment choices to residents and visitors,’ he said.
Mr. Seymour said the O-Bar would not even open on New Year’s Eve.
‘It’s pointless to be frank,’ he said.
The Attic will open, Mr. Seymour said, but will do nothing special.
‘Usually on New Year’s Eve we would have an event where we bring down entertainment, have fireworks and party favours.
‘No business is going to invest in doing that if they have to close at midnight, because New Year’s Eve is really celebrated past midnight.’
Harry Lalli, owner of the Next Level nightclub, was also unhappy with the decision.
‘I am very disappointed… as there are so many tourists coming down to Cayman,’ he said. ‘They pay a pretty hefty price for staying at the resorts just to find there’s no celebration for New Year.
‘It does not help our tourism product in which we are trying to attract more people to the islands.
‘It’s probably also disappointing for residents as it is one night they all seem to go out. And it’s going to be a big financial hit for all the restaurants.
‘I honestly thought the government would have made a special concession for New Year’s Eve as it is such an important occasion when the entire world celebrates,’ he said.
Don Lloyd, part owner of the Royal Palms, said he found the decision unbelievable.
‘New Years Eve is our biggest night of the year,’ he said. ‘There’s nothing else that even comes close.
‘We have servers who are hanging on by their fingernails trying to get by, and now they’re going to miss their biggest night of the year, too.’
Mr. Lloyd said he didn’t think tourists would take the news very well either, and that some might cancel their trips here.
‘New Year’s Eve is the single biggest party of the year and you’re going to tell (tourists) they can’t celebrate it?’
Making matters worse is the fact that next year will present the same problem because New Year’s Eve falls on a Sunday, Mr. Lloyd pointed out.
‘That will be two years of driving tourists away.’
Guy Jackson, owner and manager of Mezza Restaurant was also disappointed.
‘I think it’s detrimental to what the community and the tourist association are trying to do throughout the rest of the year,’ he said. ‘We have got good reasons to celebrate because we still have a tourism market after all the hardships we have been through.’
In his statement, Mr. Clifford said he understood the importance of the matter to members of the tourism community.
‘Consequently, the government will consider the ongoing issue of live music on Sundays as it relates to private tourism events at hotels,’ he said.
‘I trust that even where persons may disagree with the decision, that they will respect that the government has considered this matter long and hard and as always, the government’s decision was taken with the best interests of these islands in mind,’ he added.
Pastor Al Ebanks, the chairman of the Cayman Minister’s Association, said he was pleased with the decision, and said he was not among those consulted by the Cabinet about the issue.
‘I’m sure this was a difficult decision for (Cabinet),’ he said. ‘There are all kinds of people in society with all kinds of needs and desires.’
Mr. Ebanks said he was sure Cabinet made the decision they felt was in the best interest of the long-term welfare of the country.
He pointed out that this was not the first time New Year’s Eve has fallen on a Saturday.
‘There are any number of things people can do (on New Year’s Eve),’ he said. ‘People can still have personal parties. I don’t think that people’s lives will stop just because of this decision by Government.’
Private parties have been a traditional way of celebrating New Year’s Eve when it fell on a Saturday or Sunday, said Mitchell Welds, Chairman of the Liquor Licensing Board of Grand Cayman.
‘In the past, most people resorted to private parties,’ he said. ‘There was not a lot of activity in licensed premises.’
Mr. Welds said the music and dancing law still applies if admission is charged for entry at a private party.