The Liquor Licensing Board ruled that the Cayman Islands Rugby Club and Margaritaville are no longer on probation at the board’s quarterly meeting Thursday.
Those decisions were just a couple of rulings the board handed down during a meeting that had moments of emotion and drama.
The meeting began with one minute of silence as a mark of respect for LLB Inspector Donald Green, who was killed in a motorbike crash on 5 December. LLB Chairman Mitchell Welds told those at the meeting the past few weeks had been a difficult time for all those associated with the board.
Moments later, Mr. Welds excused himself after Brian Barnes, who was applying for a variation to his mobile bartendering license, accused Mr. Welds of having a conflict of interest.
Mr. Barnes said the conflict of interest lay in the fact that Mr. Welds’ son, Simon, was in direct competition with his business.
Mr. Welds said he didn’t feel well and would sit out the meeting, but noted for the record that he would have excused himself from sitting in on the matter in any event.
During the hearing, Mr. Barnes took issue with the board requiring notification of the public venues he would be working at, saying Mr. Welds was trying to steal his client list to give to his son.
But LLB Acting Chairperson Lynn Bodden-Smatt told Mr. Barnes the information is necessary so the LLB can inspect and police mobile bartenders.
Mr. Barnes remained defiant. ‘As long as he is in the liquor business he has to be off the board, and as long as he is on the board, he should be out of the liquor business,’ he said.
The board later approved Mr. Barnes’ requested variation, meaning his mobile bartending service can now serve alcohol until 2am on Fridays and until midnight on Sundays. He can also play music until 3am on Fridays.
Mr. Welds later told the Caymanian Compass that the board required all mobile bartenders to inform the board of where they would be working.
‘The Liquor Inspector and the police are unable to monitor the operations of these mobile bartendering licenses if they don’t know where they are operating at any given time,’ Mr. Welds said.
He said the allegation that he was trying to steal Mr. Barnes’ client list is completely untrue. ‘We were not asking for the client’s names. We just wanted to know the venues where he would be operating from time to time.
‘That law doesn’t just apply to [Mr. Barnes], it applies to all the mobile bartendering services that exist,’ said Mr. Welds.
Mixed news for rugby club
While the Rugby Club will be happy to have its probation tag lifted, it wasn’t all good news for the club.
The LLB choose to maintain the restricted licensing hours that were imposed when they were put on probation in September. It means the club will not be allowed to open beyond 11pm and will remain unable to play music.
The probation tag was lifted after neighbours said the rugby club had been responsible in recent months, with no complaints recorded.
That concession did not prevent animosity breaking out between the two camps during the meeting.
John Mackenzie of near-by Mary Read Crescent had requested that the club’s operating hours not revert to the times they had been before the probation order was imposed.
He said the terms of the club’s liquor licence should conform with the club’s lease, which allowed it to stay open until 11pm. Prior to being placed on probation the club’s liquor licence had allowed it to stay open until 1am on Friday nights, and midnight on Saturday.
Attorney Stephen Hall-Jones represented the club at the meeting, arguing that the terms of the club’s lease are of no legal relevance to the LLB.
‘What the lease says is a matter for the landlord and the [tenant],’ he said. ‘The relationship between the club and its landlord is not a relevant liquor licensing consideration.’
It was a point that Mrs. Bodden-Smatt conceded during the hearing.
Mr. Hall-Jones said he was 100 per cent certain there have been no breaches of the club’s liquor licence and asked that the board lift the probation and reinstate the licence hours that previously existed.
Mr. Mackenzie also asked that the club not be allowed have a music and dancing licence, pointing out that the club is in a low density residential zone.
Mr. Hall-Jones told the board the club was not asking for a music and dancing licence, but said the board had no authority to blanket ban the club from applying for one from time to time in the future.
Pointing out that the club is a private members club, Mr. Mackenzie also asked that the club only be allowed to sell alcohol to members.
‘Our evidence shows they clearly invite the public. The club may have a vision to take the club beyond a private members club but they can’t do that within the current zoning and [terms of their] lease,’ Mr, Mackenzie said.
Mr. Hall-Jones said he totally rejected the argument that the board can control who drinks at the club. Ms Bodden-Smatt confirmed the board did not have this power.
Ms. Bodden-Smatt brought the matter to a close by asking the two camps to meet and try to get along.
Earlier, the board saw an amicable resolution to a dispute between Margaritaville and its neighbor, Elmslie Memorial United Church.
Elmslie representatives told the LLB it would not oppose the lifting of Margaritaville’s probation tag; advice the board later followed.
The bar was placed on probation after Elmslie representatives complained at the board’s last meeting that loud noise and public drunkenness was disrupting church activities.
Elmslie’s John MacMillan said the church was satisfied with the steps the venue’s management had since taken to curtail noise.
‘We have taken a number of steps to become better neighbors and we have met a number of times with the church’s board,’ explained Margaritaville Manager Arthur Screaton.
This has included telling DJs performing at the venue to keep music to lower levels. The venue now ensures that the large doors on its balcony are closed while DJs are performing. Speakers on the balcony are also turned off when there is entertainment inside, Mr. Screaton explained.
The venue has also put gates at the top and bottom of a fire exit near the church to ensure that patrons come into the building through the correct entrance.
Mr. Screaton assured Elmslie that the measures the venue has taken will remain in place.
Mrs. Bodden-Smatt said she had recently visited the venue and noted the impressive changes management had made. ‘I commend you for that,’ she said.
Police also confirmed they had had no complaints about the venue since it was placed on probation.