Liquor board going to court

Jacques Scott appealing decision

Jacques Scott is taking the Liquor
Licensing Board of Grand Cayman to court to overturn the denial of a license.

The company, through attorneys
Maples and Calder, has lodged an application for leave to apply for judicial
review at the Grand Court.

The application, dated 13 May,
indicates that Peter Dutton, managing director of the group, seeks proceedings
in respect of an application to vary a package liquor licence, heard at a
special meeting of the licensing board on 22 April.

The intent was that a store selling
fine wines, spirits and houseware products be the anchor tenant of a new $3
million retail area adjacent to Fosters Supermarket Republix on West Bay Road.
Jacques Scott had applied to vary the location of a license that is based at
Little Liquor Store on North Church Street.

At the meeting, objections were
heard by Ena Welds of Joe Ena’s Liquor Store, Judy Deslandes of JD’s Liquor
Store, Clint Ebanks of Pop-a-Top Liquor Store and Garret Haylock of the West
Bay Residents’ Committee.

Subsequently Jacques Scott’s
application was turned down by the board.

Determinations

The Liquor Licensing Office gave
three determinations of why the application was denied.

It said that it was concerned that
the public of the district of West Bay would not be served by the additional
traffic, motor vehicle or otherwise, that the construction of such a
substantial additional commercial building would cause.

In particular, the board said it
was concerned about the potential for slowing of traffic during afternoon peak
hours as well as the risk of traffic accidents in the area. There was accordingly
a serious public safety consideration which fell squarely within the remit of
the board’s decision making authority, they said.

It referenced section 9(1)(d) and
9(1)(e) of the liquor licensing law. These clauses state that a board may not
grant a license unless satisfied that the premises in respect of which the
application is made “(d) are situated at a location where they will be at
service to the public, and (e) will not cause inconvenience to the occupiers of
neighbouring property.”

The board said that, having a
thorough knowledge in the residential population distribution of the district
of West Bay as well as the relative location to the principle tourist accommodations
along the West Bay Road, of the proposed new building, the board was of the
firm opinion that the resident and tourist population of West Bay Road would
not benefit in any significant or different way by virtue of granting any
variation of the existing license.

Thirdly, the board said that in
light of guidance provided by objectors with local knowledge as well as a
previous 1988 Grand Court case, the board must consider public safety and
public order issues. Despite the applicant’s assurance that it would provide significant
security measures, the board said it was firmly of the opinion that the license
variation would have a high propensity to public order concerns for the district
of West Bay.

Countered

Maples and Calder countered that no
representative of the central planning authority was at the meeting of 22 April
nor was there any representation made regarding the first reason given for license
denial. The Grand Court document alleged that the board had acted in breach of
its statutory duties in substituting the board’s views for those of the Central
Planning Authority. It further said that the board had acted in breach of its
statutory duties to accurately record a summary of the evidence provided at the
meeting of 22 April.

The application on behalf of
Jacques Scott further stated that in respect of the second reason stated by the
board in denying the license, there was no mechanism whereby the board could
consider their own expert evidence. The application also stated that it was
unreasonable for the board to have disregarded Jacques Scott’s representations
at the meeting as to the unique nature of the proposed outlet and the
demographic analysis the plaintiff had undertaken, in favour of the board’s own
knowledge.

“The board has acted unreasonably,
capriciously, and, therefore, breached its statutory duty in submitting reason
B of the Letter as a ground to refuse the application,” read the document.

In response to the public order
issues stated, the application filed by Maples and Calder said that the board
did not receive any objection from the Commissioner of Police. It also said
that the board had failed to take account of the unique nature of the proposed
premises and that it had unreasonably concluded that the nature of the proposed
premises selling fine wines, spirits and homeware products was an environment
for additional public order concerns. It concluded that the board’s decision
was unreasonable and not based on the evidence submitted at the meeting.

Court

Mr. Dutton told the Caymanian
Compass that the company felt very unhappy with the original decision and did
not feel it was the correct one based on the merits of the case as presented at
the board meeting.

“We think it’s a question of
competition and that we satisfy the criteria that the liquor licensing law sets
out. We hope that the courts will see it the way that we do.

“The judges have to review whether
or not the liquor licensing board obeyed the law and they either have the right
to throw out our application or send it back to the board [for
reconsideration],” he said.

Liquor Licensing Board of Grand
Cayman Deputy Chairman Noel Williams chaired the special meeting that heard
Jacques Scott’s initial case on 22 April.

“I felt that the board did our job
and decided on what was best for the community. The courts will have to decide
now what the outcome will be. From a board standpoint we came to a ruling that
we would deny the license. Jacques Scott decided to take it to the court and we
will leave it to the court to decide,” said Mr. Williams.

A preliminary hearing will take
place this month.

1 COMMENT

  1. I think that the LLB has been caught with "their pants down" on this one. It is obvious to me that they made their decision based on some other factor(s)than those given. They state construction congestion and public order issues, but are not construction congestion issues applicable to almost any project on this island. As for public order issues I dont believe that I have heard of these occuring at liquor stores, but rather at bars and nightclubs. It seems to me that this project would bring positive growth to the area and would benefit West Bay, and that the decision made by the LLB was based on unfounded and possibly discriminatory issues.

    I cannot see what negative impact this development would have on the objectors as Jacques Scott would have a completely different product line and client base from the other smaller establishments. Shame on the LLB for being influenced into this decision. Is there no branch of the government that can think for themselves rather than being puppets!!

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