Late-night revelers have reason to celebrate now that operating hours for bars and nightclubs have been extended by an hour.
However, police are concerned that later opening hours may lead to more problems with drunk drivers and nightclub closing-time violence.
The Liquor Licensing Board this week announced a decision to push back the operating hours for bars and nightclubs. Bars can now stay open until 2 a.m. Monday through Friday and to midnight Saturdays and Sundays. Nightclubs can stay open until 4 a.m. Monday through Friday. Closing time will remain at midnight for Saturdays.
Nightclub operators have been arguing for later hours for years.
Of the seven licensed nightclubs on Grand Cayman, Denis Rowe owns two: Fete and Lillie’s. He welcomes the ability to stay open later, but said, “This really only gives us one more night of additional business.”
He said he will consider keeping his clubs open for an extra hour on Fridays or other nights when they have special events. “The biggest effect would be Saturdays,” he said, adding that he is disappointed the Liquor Licensing Board did not extend Saturday night hours.
“I’d much rather have Saturday 1 a.m. than Friday 4 a.m.,” he said. “On Saturdays, I have to stop serving alcohol at quarter to 12.”
On Friday nights and Saturday mornings, Mr. Rowe said, “By quarter to 3, maybe half of the bar is gone,” and keeping the club open another hour probably will not add much business.
Mr. Rowe said the board had not notified him of the new hours. He learned about the change only when contacted by a reporter. “I’ve been lobbying for more hours for years, but I gave up,” he said.
Hours before the Liquor Licensing Board announced the extended operating hours, a police spokeswoman sent out a lengthy statement about crime over the weekend. The press release included details about an incident in which police used a Taser on a man outside the Rooftop nightclub in George Town around closing time at 3 a.m. Saturday.
The statement notes, “Several incidents in recent months, including these last Friday, indicate an increased level of threat in the vicinity of night clubs on the weekends.”
In a separate written statement, Acting Commissioner of Police Anthony Ennis said Tuesday, “It is disappointing to learn of the decision to extend hours for bars and nightclubs selling liquor via a media query; although not strictly required, the RCIPS was not invited or consulted on the consequential impact that this will likely have on public safety and police resource deployment, which will have to be adjusted or shifted to address the increase in the number of incidents we have already seen occurring around nightclubs in the early morning hours.”
Mr. Ennis said his officers have been seeing increases in “violence and other criminal conduct involving firearms, edge weapons and anti-social behavior and road safety concerns.”
“While we are not against legal places of entertainment, we are seriously concerned about the growing number of incidents that put public safety at risk, and more needs to be done to make these establishments safer for legitimate mature patrons,” he said.
The earlier press release from the police states, “Police are putting crime reduction strategies with respect to night clubs on the weekend in order to ensure the safety of our citizens, residents and visitors to have a safe place to go out and enjoy themselves.”
A number of incidents at nightclubs have occurred in recent months. Police last month said a fight broke out involving multiple people at Fete Nightclub around 3 a.m. on May 7. Officers arrested two men for allegedly having a 9mm handgun and ammunition in a car.
Police say they learned that on the same night in May security guards took 10 knives from patrons at another nightclub.
This story has been amended from the original.