Tortuga liquor president: ‘Worst robbery we’ve had’

This Discount Liquors store, owned by the Tortuga Rum Company, was the target of armed robbers Saturday night. – PHOTO: BRENT FULLER

A Tortuga liquor store employee was forced to open a drop safe with a pistol pointed at her head late Saturday during a post-closing time robbery that store president Robert Hamaty called the “worst robbery we’ve had” at the Cayman Islands specialty foods and liquor shop.

According to Mr. Hamaty, two armed robbers ran up to a store employee and security guard as they were closing the front grate of the Discount Liquors business at George Town’s Pasadora Place shopping complex around 10:20 p.m. Saturday.

Mr. Hamaty said the guard and the employee were forced back into the store. The unarmed guard was made to lie down on the floor of the business while the female employee was taken to the back of the store to open the drop safe where overnight takings are stored for security purposes.

“[The employee] was told if she didn’t open the safe, she’d have her [expletive] head blown off,” Mr. Hamaty said. “The [robbery suspect] was holding the gun to her head while she opened it. This one was unbelievable. They got everything.”

No one was hurt and the suspects, who police said were carrying a machete and a handgun, got away on foot. No arrests were immediately reported.

Mr. Hamaty’s stores at certain locations around Grand Cayman have been robbed from time to time in recent years. The Pasadora Place Discount Liquors, in particular, has been hit twice before, he said. Certain security measures, including the installation of guards and closed-circuit monitoring cameras, have been undertaken since those crimes occurred, Mr. Hamaty said.

One of the security measures involved putting in the drop safe so that store workers did not have to have much cash in the register during the nighttime opening hours. That did not assist in Saturday’s robbery, Mr. Hamaty said.

Another measure, the CCTV cameras, did not help either during the Saturday heist, he said.

“CCTV captured everything but every one of them was masked … and we can’t even find out which direction they came from because it was too dark,” Mr. Hamaty said.

In addition to robberies at Pasadora Place, the Tortuga liquor chain has seen holdups at its West Bay and Industrial Park stores during the later evening hours in recent years, he said. Other stores along the Seven Mile Beach area and in tourism districts have been more fortunate.

It is the later opening hours that most Grand Cayman liquor stores have switched to since 2013 that have led to a high incidence of crime being committed at those stores, Mr. Hamaty said. Previously, the latest most George Town liquor stores could remain open was 7 p.m. Only smaller mom-and-pop operations in the outer districts were allowed to open until 10 p.m.

“To be honest with you … I would like to see it revert back,” Mr. Hamaty said. “The later it gets, the more criminal element it attracts. It should be across the board, 7 p.m. closing time.”

There is nothing preventing Tortuga stores from closing earlier than 10 p.m., but Mr. Hamaty said the local liquor business is a competitive environment and notes that many stores will refuse to shut earlier if their competition does not follow suit.

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  1. And things will only get worse. The crushing global debt spiral and rising cost of living is literally causing folks to go MAD ! Clamp down on the drug trade and laundering money via real estate etc drying up pools of easy cash so the criminals will keep targeting businesses for loot. Home invasions starting with the very rich on island will be NEXT !!!!!!!!!! Please come back Commissioner Baines. We need allot of help – most likely Divine help.

  2. More of these robberies are going to take place, and as foolish as some people may think we are there are more to these robberies than we know.
    Owners/managers and securities still not putting on their thinking caps, or if they are they are on back way. Sure you can rob a place but who says that in this kind of robbery you should/would be getting away with the real thing.. Read between the lines.

  3. Probably the same two punks who robbed Ala Kebab and Alfresco Restaurant.

    Too lazy to get a real job their “business model” is to rob hard working people every couple of weeks.

    Plenty of people know who they are, but won’t come forward.