The temporary lifting of the moratorium on new liquor license applications has created a stir among liquor store proprietors, bar owners and the Liquor Licensing Board.
The Governor issued an order on 17 November that states: “the Liquor Licensing Board shall consider all applications for the grant of new package licences and new retail licences, received by the Board between 17th November, 2010 and 16th January, 2011.”
According to the Liquor Licensing Board’s agenda for the 9 December quarterly session, which was released on Thursday, 18 November – one day after the temporary moratorium was lifted – five new applications for retail liquor licenses are scheduled to be heard at the meeting, along with a new application for a package liquor license and a wine and beer license. Several other liquor issues will be heard, including variations on current liquor licenses.
Robert Hamaty, president of Tortuga Rum Company, believes that the timing of the lift on the moratorium and the release of the board’s agenda is not legal.
“What needs to happen by law, the chairman of the Liquor Licensing Board needs to reschedule,” he said. “All of those aren’t legal applications.”
Mr. Hamaty said the new license applicants on the agenda must have known about the lift of the moratorium before the public did.
The law doesn’t require the chairman to have a formal application in hand before the agenda is submitted, according to the board.
“I knew these people had the intentions of opening a business that needed a liquor license,” said Mitchell Welds, chairman of the Liquor Licensing Board. “The liquor license office had enquiries from the individuals listed [on the agenda].”
The agenda is structured loosely, and there are items on the agenda that can be removed, according to Mr. Welds.
The law requires the board to publish an agenda at least 21 days before the meeting so the public can see who has made applications. The timing also gives the public a chance to object.
“Any application made during the lift shall be heard by the board,” said Mr. Welds.
Handel Whittaker, owner of Calico Jack’s bar and grill restaurant on West Bay Road in Seven Mile Beach, said the lift of the moratorium doesn’t make any sense.
“We should have put those liquor licenses out and auctioned them off to the highest bidder,” he said.
Mr. Whittaker doesn’t plan on applying for a new liquor license, stating that “the island is already sufficiently served.”
The Liquor Licensing Board’s quarterly session will be held at 10am on 9 December in the Cayman Islands Investment Bureau’s Board Room in the Cayman Corporate Centre, George Town.
As of press time, there had been no official word from the Governor’s office regarding the reasons behind the lift of the moratorium.