A new competitor in the liquor distribution business will soon be on the scene, some bars and package stores will be allowed to stay open later and a new “distillery” will be in operation as well.
All those changes were discussed during last Thursday’s meeting of the Grand Cayman Liquor Licensing Board.
Board members on Friday approved a change of location for a liquor distributor’s licence, requested by Reflections Liquor-4-Less owner Prentice Panton. Mr. Panton’s “Naughty Distributor” business will move from Stadium Drive in West Bay to Ashgo Street off Godfrey Nixon Way in George Town; a move that Mr. Panton said would allow him to expand into the local distribution market.
Reflections stores import their own alcohol now, but do not distribute to any other local alcohol retailers. Mr. Panton said Thursday that will change.
“There is a need to offer competition for the distribution service,” Mr. Panton said. “We believe that would be a great advantage to the market and to ourselves.”
Cayman’s two main liquor distribution operations are Jacques Scott and Cayman Distributors group. Tortuga Rum Company and Premier Wines and Spirits also do some distribution in the local market.
While Mr. Panton was granted his requested change of location, his proposal to extend operating hours of the distribution centre from 9am to 8pm Monday-Saturday was deferred by the Liquor Licensing Board until its December meeting.
Distributors are allowed to stay open until 6pm, but in practice Mr. Panton said those operations usually close at 4.30pm on weekdays and just before noon on Saturdays.
“The liquor distributors close presently at 11.30am [on Saturdays], and [the bars and restaurants] have nowhere to go to buy it, so they’re forced to buy it from the retail stores at a higher price,” Mr. Panton told board members.
Board Chairman Mitchell Welds said, if that was occurring, it would be against the Liquor Licensing Law.
Mr. Panton said liquor stores have no way of knowing what purpose a person is buying large amounts of beer or spirits when they come in, even if they recognise the buyer.
“There’s a lot of laws that have been broken in regard to that; some that are selling on Sundays, some that are selling in the streets,” he said. “If we get the hours, then they have an opportunity to shop somewhere else.”
Although it would have been unthinkable just five years ago, there are now two liquor package stores that will be open until 10pm each night in the Savannah area.
The Liquor Licensing Board granted Jacques Scott’s request to extend operating hours of its Savannah package store from 7pm to 10pm. That Jacques Scott store was the subject of a bitter battle when it first proposed to open in the Countryside Shopping Centre in 2007.
During the June meeting of the Liquor Licensing Board, Reflections Liquor-4-Less was granted a licence to sell alcohol at a location across the street from the Countryside Shopping Centre. The licence that was granted allows the store to remain open until 10pm.
An attorney for Jacques Scott applied to extend the Savannah store’s hours until 10pm to match Reflections.
“Jacques Scott has an unimpeachable record and there have been no concerns at the Savannah store,” said William Peake of the Maples law firm. “Jacques Scott merely seeks equal treatment under the law.”
Mr. Panton said he had no objections to Jacques Scott staying open later at the Savannah location. “I welcome the competition,” he said. “Things are going to get interesting.”
Three smaller local bars applied to the Liquor Licensing Board for later opening hours during the week. Those included Ultra Lounge and Grill, which wanted to stay open until 2am Thursdays; the Buttonwood Club asked to stay open until 2am Wednesdays; and The Office lounge also asked to stay open until 2am Wednesdays.
Typically, bars must close by 1am on any given night, although they were recently granted the ability to stay open until 2am Saturdays, serving liquor until 1.45am.
Joe DeFillippo, representing a number of businesses along the Seven Mile Beach strip, including O Bar and Jet Nightclub, objected to the later hours during the weekdays saying it would eventually make local nightclubs “extinct”.
Mr. DeFillippo said the liquor board’s decision to allow bars to stay open on Friday nights into Saturday mornings has effectively killed his Friday night business. Designated nightclubs are allowed to stay open until 3am and serve liquor until 2.45am.
“We have very little crowd on Tuesdays, Monday and Wednesdays are our biggest nights,” Mr. DeFillippo said, arguing that while one local bar staying open until 2am Wednesday wouldn’t hurt that much, a number of others doing the same thing would eventually have an effect.
“How are you going to turn down the next people that would apply?” he asked.
Attorney Clyde Allen, representing Ultra Lounge and Grill, said it was not the Liquor Licensing Board’s job to keep anyone in business.
“Business anywhere in the world is driven by the consumer,” Mr. Allen said. He noted that the bars seeking extension of hours until 2am during a weeknight would gladly give up later hours on Saturday morning in exchange. Chairman Welds stated they would have to do that if they remained open later one day during the week.
All three local bars were granted the hours extension on their respective nights.
The Cayman Spirits Company and its owners, Cleveland and Nelson Dilbert, received permission to change a location on a liquor distributor’s licence from West Bay Road to Webb Road in George Town.
The licence was also changed to a retail licence.
Mr. Nelson said the family wishes to open up what he described as a “distillery” there, where tours could be given to Island visitors and a small retail area operated in front of the business – similar to what the Caybrew operation does now.