Compromise seeks to move vendors off beachfront

No vendors were operating on Public Beach Friday, but rented beach chairs were left stacked up. Photo: Brent Fuller

Some vendors will be allowed to continue operating in the Seven Mile Beach area, but only in designated spaces that are kept back from the waterfront, under a compromise being worked out with Cayman Islands government officials.

Last week, the dozens of beach chair, Jet Ski and flotation-device renters, along with those selling snacks and trinkets, were given a month’s reprieve from being fined by the government Department of Commerce and Investment. The vendors were warned twice between May and June about their unlicensed activity along Grand Cayman’s most famous stretch of beach and told they would face fines and court action this month if they did not move.

The vendors remained in spite of the warnings and the Ministry of Tourism indicated in June that it would seek to work out a compromise with the sellers, all of whom were operating without trade and business licenses or permission from Cabinet to conduct business on public land.

Tourism Ministry Councilor, George Town MLA Joey Hew said Friday that government was working out plans to allow the vendors to become licensed to operate in “craft market” or “vendor areas” that would be defined at a later date.

“We’re hoping to create a vendor area, not on the beach, but on the property so the beach cabanas can be used by the public, and visitors and residents won’t feel harassed,” Mr. Hew said. “The idea is not to crowd the beach.”

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Numerous complaints have been received by successive Cayman Islands government administrations, dating back to 2011, regarding unlicensed vendors using the Public Beach area as well as, more recently, the West Bay Public Beach to sell things like coconuts or locally made trinkets.

Mr. Hew said, with the closure of West Bay Road through Public Beach, a significant area of land has opened up behind the main beachfront where the vendors might operate. The area to be used by West Bay Public Beach vendors was not certain, he said, because there is less space there.

Any vendors who want to remain in the Seven Mile Beach or West Bay Public Beach area would have to apply for, and abide by, trade and business licenses. In addition, any businesses carrying significant liability risk – such as Jet Ski operators, would need to be properly insured.

All vendors who continue to operate would have to comply with pension and healthcare requirements under the local law as well, he said.

Some of the problems arising from the situation with the Seven Mile Beach vendors have highlighted a need to change local law regarding vendors who operate on the streets and public parks, Mr. Hew said.

The Progressives-led government is expected to bring a Public Lands Law to the Legislative Assembly for approval that will repeal and replace the current Towns and Communities Law of 1995, and hopefully set clearer guidelines on how street vending is to be managed.

“We want to try and avoid these things in the future,” Mr. Hew said.

The Towns and Communities Law, which sets out what ought not to be done along the public roadways, does address street vending to a certain extent, along with prohibiting issues such as “negligence or ill-usage in driving cattle,” “singing any profane, indecent or obscene song or ballad” and “wantonly disturbing any inhabitant by pulling or ringing any doorbell,” among others.

The legislation does prohibit selling anything in a “private piazza or public place” without the consent of the Crown or the private land owner.

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  1. Comprise, WHY?

    Having worked I the tourism business for over 2o years in Cayman, the last thing we have to do is to ‘Cow Tow’ to a ‘few’ ‘Local’s’ who feel it is their birth right to behave shamelessly and preach that ‘they’ need to survive.

    Wake Up Cayman!! For years, Our Tourists have loved the fact that they can walk the beaches and go down town and not be ‘harassed’ like other Carribean destinations.

    So STOP listening to the few and listen to the thousands of Caymanians who for years have made a very successful livelihood in the Tourism Industry.

    As for the Politicians who change the laws to suit their own personal agenda’s so that they can get re-elected, please listen to the almost half a million stay of visitors, who don’t have a vote, of whom probably 125,000 of them are repeat visitors on a yearly basis, who would say to YOU, our elected members, keep Cayman unique, keep the tourists comings but do not trade off for beech vending. We simply don’t need it as there are a lot of alternative venues already in place.