The overwhelming majority of Savannah residents who attended a Wednesday night public meeting opposed a Jacques Scott Wines and Spirits proposal to open a liquor store in a local mall.
In a vote taken at the end of the meeting, 68 people said they were against the application and four supported it.
Many of the attendees at Savannah Primary School were involved in local church groups and have been vocal opponents of the business’s plan to open the store at the Countryside Shopping Mall.
The company wants to move the licence at the Red Rabbit liquor store in Red Bay to the store in Savannah. The Red Bay store is in a shopping plaza, which government plans to demolish to make way for a road.
No decision has been made about the new licence.
At a Liquor Licensing Board hearing on 8 March, Jacques Scott officials presented a petition that showed more than 600 residents had no objection to the application. Liquor licence applicant Peter T. Dutton said about 95 per cent of the people on that petition were from the Savannah area.
Mr. Dutton also argued at the hearing that there is no package liquor store for the area that has an estimated 3,500 residential dwellings. The exception being the Cayman Islands Brewery, formerly Stingray Brewery, which is between Grand Harbour and Bodden Town.
In a statement released last week, Jacques Scott officials wrote that the company ‘will continue to refrain from making any comment that might influence the (Liquor Licensing) Board’s decision as the hearing has already taken place and objections were dealt with at that hearing.’
Those at Wednesday night’s meeting had no such qualms.
‘Once again, (there’s) an outside influence that appears to be dictating what is right, what is convenient,’ said local resident Woody DaCosta.
Mr. DaCosta said he consumes alcohol occasionally and didn’t want to sound like a hypocrite. However, he said the proposed liquor store’s proximity to three churches and a school is a concern.
‘A case in point is Margaritaville (in George Town), the lot of which is some 30 feet from our historic church,’ he said. ‘It has been reported that this church has been disturbed…by the irreverent atmosphere of this business during solemn occasions such as a funeral. Imagine that.’
Former member of the Legislative Assembly Heather Bodden said she believed people want to live in Savannah because of its status as a dry community.
Pastor Dale Forbes of the Church of God in Savannah said he believed a liquor store would bring a bad influence to the area.
‘When something is readily available, more people will buy it,’ Pastor Forbes said. ‘We feel the store is simply looking for an open market.’
Apart from the nearby brewery, there is another location with a liquor licence in Savannah-Newlands. However, Pedro St. James facilities are generally rented out only for special events like parties and weddings.
Two Cabinet Ministers, who are also representatives of the Bodden Town district, attended Wednesday night’s meeting.
Tourism Minister Charles Clifford and Health Minister Anthony Eden technically have no say on whether the Jacques Scott liquor licence is approved. But Mr. Clifford said he would communicate the outcome of the meeting to the board.
‘Minister Eden and I will not decide this matter as that is not our responsibility under the law,’ Mr. Clifford said.
‘The meeting demonstrated that democracy was alive and well in the district as residents took advantage of the opportunity to have their say.’