Unlicensed beach vendors were hustled off Seven Mile Beach Wednesday as a delayed crackdown was put in force.
The government’s removal of the vendors was slated to begin 1 January but was postponed. On Wednesday, vendors were given cease and desist notices dated 31 January issued from the Trade and Business Licence Unit.
The notice says that unlicensed vendors are in breach of the Trade and Business Licensing Law, an offence that carries penalties of a $5,000 fine or imprisonment of 12 months.
As part of the crackdown, vendors would have to get trade and business licences or face being arrested by the Royal Cayman Islands Police. However, vendors claim licences are not being granted to vend on the beach at all.
“…There have been enormous efforts to deal with V-Kool, (a business that features flotation for hire) crime and hours of opening,” noted Robert Loverd, a resident at the Harbour Heights condos adjacent to the Public Beach. He added that the fines for illegal vending, to his knowledge, were in the region of $12, which he explained is merely a cost of doing business to the vendors along the beach.
“What happened was that there was a provision in the law, which was discovered not long after officials from the Department of Tourism came down to the beach and were horrified. The announcement that a crackdown would be done was made shortly after but then came a new temporary government and of course an election is coming,” noted Mr. Loverd.
He said when the crackdown was originally announced, there was anarchy on the beach, as there was a scramble by many to make a quick dollar. This, coupled with the lack of regulation, was a recipe for disaster during the interim more so than usual.
“This is an enormous inflection point for the Cayman Islands. The Public Beach is the Wild West and soon a three acre beach will be 12 acres; a mega important place for Cayman. This can get very ugly with no regulation,” he said.
During a media briefing in January, Cabinet Minister Rolston Anglin addressed the issue of the laws on the books being antiquated and not up to speed.
“We are in the process of looking at what has been put together,” Mr. Anglin said. “There are going to be some changes to the proposed policy.
As a result, the crackdown will not take place this month. Traditionally, this kind of vending has not been a part of Caymanian culture and it is unfair to have some people doing business other than how it should be done.”
Mr. Loverd said that in his opinion, businesses such a V-Kool, who had previously been awarded licenses, had misrepresented the facts to the Board in the first place.
“He’s supposed to move his stuff and not store it on the beach as part of the initial license grant and he has not been doing so. The stuff is stored right there on the beach and right next to Harbour Heights. I am told he needs permission from Cabinet to store anything on the beach,” said Mr. Loverd.
V-Kool may be familiar to residents who visit the Public Beach on the West Bay Road. With its labyrinth of flotation devices strewn along the water, the operation is hard to miss. The business offers an elaborate scheme of inflatable trampolines, slides and ladders rising out of the water.
The business was in the press recently after having been vandalised in what the owner described as a hate crime that left his equipment marred with racial epithets and decorated with racially charged images.
Some of the imagery drawn on the devices by vandals included a man hanging from a noose on a tree, a tombstone reading R.I.P, as well as drawings of male genitalia, along with sexually suggestive innuendo.
“I am not sure who the vandals are but I have been having issues with people in administrative capacities, as well as residents,” said Michael Morgan, V-Kool owner.
Others on the Public Beach say they should be granted licences, as everyone needs to earn a living and once it is done with a level of respect, dignity and pride then the government should not stifle the progress of poor people but rather facilitate and regulate.
What will have to be done to secure a trade and business licence for vending on the Public Beach in the future is unknown, as is who will be eligible.
Mr. Morgan explained that there is no one to go to for permission to use the beach for vending. He said agencies such as the Agriculture Department and Parks and Recreations said they did not have responsibility and as a result the Trade and Business Licensing Board had no real basis to consider licences as a result, as they themselves are only granters of licences and not locations.
Whether Cabinet has the ultimate responsibility for the beach remains to be seen. Ultimately the beach belongs to the people of the Cayman Islands.
George Town political candidate Kenneth Bryan, who was on site at the Public Beach Wednesday, said he was there to ensure that everyday people get a chance to make money.
He explained there is no alternative and the people who were there have no where else to go. He said they are doing honest business, which needs to be regulated to some degree.