Sound policy: Dealing with nocturnal noise

It’s good to hear that Cayman Islands officials are considering establishing uniform standards for nocturnal noise levels.

Anyone who has had the misfortune of passing sleepless nights while heavy bass sounds literally shake the walls knows the importance of sensible sound regulations. Conversely, anyone who’s been involved in an entertainment and service business knows the importance of having a level playing field for all competitors.

The ongoing conflict between tranquility-seeking Seven Mile Beach condo residents and customer-oriented bar owners is not due to one party’s irascibility or the other’s contempt — but is the result of poor planning and inadequate industry oversight.

Here’s the rub: Sound is not compatible with silence.

The most efficient solution is to keep loud places (bars) away from quiet places (homes) through preemptory measures such as zoning and licensure. In other words, don’t let people build or operate loud places next to quiet places.

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Unfortunately for Grand Cayman, the good ship Foresight set sail a good while back, and now we are in the position of trying to manage an existing problem by balancing the interests of sleepy residents and boisterous businesses. That means regular monitoring of noise to ensure it isn’t too loud, or goes on too late, for neighbors. The only fair way to enforce this is to come up with uniform standards that apply not only to businesses, but to private individuals as well.

As sympathetic as we are to the plights of condo owners and DJs, however, we would divorce their issues from the run-up to the unveiling of the new Liquor Licensing Law.

While noise complaints are valid and frustrating on a personal level, it appears that the logical place for noise regulations is not in the new liquor law, but in the similarly antiquated Towns and Communities Law.

The new liquor law should not be held up for any tangential matter. Cayman’s liquor licensing structure needs to be obliterated and rebuilt anew.

The appointed Liquor Licensing Board — headed up by chairman Mitchell Welds, an institution in and of himself — is an anachronistic leftover plagued with actual and apparent conflicts that have no place in a modern Cayman.

According to the existing paradigm, liquor licenses are not issued to businesses, but belong to individuals, whether or not they actually own or operate an establishment that serves alcohol.

A Cabinet-imposed moratorium on issuing new liquor licenses has, despite its patent inequity, persisted through successive governments. As a consequence, liquor licenses, which technically have no monetary value, are precious commodities on the black market, commanding prices in the tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In the opinion of the Compass, the new liquor law must abolish the appointed liquor board and make the permitting of alcohol-serving businesses an administrative issue dealt with by the Department of Commerce and Investment, according to a set of objective, published criteria.

Obtaining a liquor license should be an easy process open to any entrepreneur who can meet all the requirements. This is one area where a board’s discretion is an unnecessary and potentially corrupting influence.

This government has styled itself as an opponent of public sector corruption: The upcoming Liquor Licensing Law will indicate how seriously the government takes its own pronouncements.

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