No changes yet to licensing board
An application from a mobile bartending service run by the son of Liquor Licensing Board Chairman Mitchell Welds was denied by the board Wednesday, according to records sent to the Caymanian Compass.
Simon Welds of Cayman Mobile Bartending had requested permission to sell liquor on Friday nights through to 2:30 a.m. on Saturdays.
Prior to the board deliberating the application behind closed doors, Mr. Welds announced that he would recuse himself from any discussions on the matter that involved “a relative.”
The involvement of several of Mitchell Welds’s family members in the liquor business, including his niece as a member of the Liquor Licensing Board, his son’s mobile bar service license and a family connection to a West Bay liquor store, are among the issues to be raised in a review of the local liquor license process by the government Department of Commerce and Investment.
The department assumed responsibility for liquor licensing on July 1 and, according to representatives, is “reviewing the legal and operational structure of the Liquor Licensing Board.”
“We are aware of unresolved issues, such as allegations of conflict of interest, and have formed a review committee in order to recommend improvements,” said department director Ryan Rajkumarsingh in a statement earlier this year.
Although the committee’s existence was apparently not known by many in the local liquor business, Mr. Rajkumarsingh said the review committee has met twice since its formation on Aug. 28. The committee reportedly includes representatives from law firms, the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, local businesses and government.
Whether the current five-person membership of the Liquor Licensing Board would be changed at some point in the future is unknown. When Minister Wayne Panton was asked about the issue earlier this month by the Caymanian Compass, he stated that the committee review of the entire liquor licensing issue would take some time.
Meanwhile, the Cayman Islands Anti-Corruption Commission is investigating the Liquor Licensing Board of Grand Cayman after it received a “report of alleged corruption in relation” to the board. The complaint was the subject of an initial inquiry by the commission.
Correspondence obtained by the Compass indicates that RCIPS officers had taken an interest in certain issues regarding the use of liquor licenses more than a year ago, when one licensee, Brian Barnes, said other individuals were using his mobile liquor license without his knowledge.
According to an email chain between Mr. Barnes and RCIPS Chief Inspector Frank Owens on May 22, 2012, Mr. Owens, who at the time had responsibility for police matters regarding the Liquor Licensing Board of Grand Cayman, wanted to know who had used Mr. Barnes’s license for an event on May 18, 2012.
“Mr. Barnes, can you confirm that you catered for an event at Big J’s Lawn in Seymour Drive on Friday, 18th May, 2012, utilizing your mobile liquor license?” Chief Inspector Owens asked.
Mr. Barnes’s reply was, “No, I did not cater on Friday and I did not give anyone my permission to use my name or license. I always contact Marva [Scott – the liquor board secretary] if I am going anything outside my private catering.”
Mr. Owens then informed Mr. Barnes that someone had been using his name on the liquor license to cater the event.
“[Expletive], that’s not good!” Mr. Barnes replied.
Liquor licenses can be borrowed by other individuals to use at certain events. However, that must be done with the permission of the licensee and the board. According to Mr. Barnes, whom the Compass contacted on Wednesday, he has since learned that his mobile liquor license had apparently been used in several instances without his express permission.
When contacted about the anti-corruption investigation, Chairman Welds said he knew nothing regarding the subject of such an investigation. “This is news to me,” Mr. Welds said.
Extended hours turned down
Another application for extended operating hours, on behalf of Reflections Liquor-4-Less at its Savannah location, was also denied by the Liquor Licensing Board.
Reflections owner Prentice Panton had requested that his new Savannah store be open from 9 a.m., rather than 10 a.m., Monday to Saturday, mainly to serve construction workers.
The board also heard from a resident who lives in the apartment building above the Reflections store in Savannah about patrons at the store causing public nuisances and disturbances. It was unclear during the meeting whether the resident had filed a complaint with the board.
Mr. Panton and the landlord of the Savannah property told board members that steps had been taken to resolve any issues the resident had with the situation.