The Cayman Islands government is seeking opinions from the public about the way alcohol is regulated in the territory.
The Department of Commerce and Investment, which assumed responsibility for liquor licensing in July, formed a committee Aug. 28 to look into the legal and operational structure of Grand Cayman’s embattled Liquor Licensing Board.
According to a department news release, “The responses will be used to make informed decisions regarding improvements to the Liquor Licensing Law (2000), which will include structural changes to policies and correct operational challenges.
“DCI already has begun to examine the liquor licensing functions, increase its enforcement and compliance efforts, and review the legal and operational structure of the Liquor Licensing Board – the latter being spearheaded by a joint public-private sector review committee.”
The department is asking for feedback on matters including, but not limited to, the moratorium on new liquor licenses, operating hours of establishments, proximity of new establishments to schools and churches, mobile bar licenses and licensing prices. The deadline for public input is Oct. 18.
Responses must be emailed to [email protected], and the department asks that people keep their responses brief and submit them in bullet-form format. Contact details must also be provided.
Restaurateur shares thoughts
One local restaurateur has already come up with a list of recommendations.
Markus Mueri, co-owner of Abacus, Deckers and Karoo, said he has had “many conversations” with owners and managers of bars, nightclubs and restaurants.
“With these suggested changes it would not be necessary for many establishments to apply on weekly bases for extensions to their opening hours and everybody is able to plan, execute and create wonderful events without the guessing [of if] the extension will, or will not be approved,” Mr. Mueri said in a letter to the Caymanian Compass.
Mr. Mueri’s business partner is Neil Bryington, a member of Grand Cayman’s Liquor Licensing Board. Citing alleged conflicts of interest, Mr. Bryington, board chairman Mitchell Welds and member Tammy Welds recused themselves from a portion of the board’s annual general meeting Sept. 12, leaving the five-member board without a quorum and therefore unable to consider about a dozen applications from liquor stores seeking extensions to their operating hours. Mr. Welds later used his discretionary power as chairman to approve nearly all of those applications.
Mr. Mueri’s suggestions include standardizing operating hours for establishments according to their license category, rather than the current ad-hoc system, where, for example, package stores in West Bay can stay open until 10 p.m., but George Town stores must close at 7 p.m.
His recommendations also address quirks where some stores manage to stay open on Sunday when others are closed. For example, the store at Treasure Island is open on Sunday because it operates under a hotel license, not a package license. Similarly, West Indies Wine Company in Camana Bay is open on Sunday because it operates under a retail license (i.e. as a bar).
Mr. Mueri suggests that package stores be allowed to operate seven days a week, with uniform opening hours across Grand Cayman. “Gas stations and hotel-licensed premises provide this service already on Sundays,” he said.
For restaurants and bars, he recommends they all should have the same hours, 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday to Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Sunday, with live music permitted every day. (Liquor would stop being served a half hour before closing times.)
Mr. Mueri said, “Only hotels are permitted to have live music on Sundays. Early opening hours would most definitely serve the cruise tourism.”
For nightclubs, he suggests their hours be 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday to Saturday (with liquor and entertainment to stop at 4 a.m.).
Finally, he recommends that special restrictions on alcohol sales on Christmas Day and Good Friday be abolished, and that on New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day, every establishment should be allowed to stay open until 5 a.m. (alcohol served until 4 a.m.), no matter what day of the week the holiday falls.