Illegal vendors remain on beachfront

Vendors get a 45-day extension

The scene at Public Beach on Tuesday. – Photo: Brent Fuller

Tuesday’s scene on Public Beach at Seven Mile Beach this week was a familiar one, with unlicensed vendors setting up at the waterfront, beach chairs stacked up dozens high and Waverunners and banana boats gliding past swimmers in shallow waters next to shore.

The situation at Cayman’s main tourism attraction has been under review by government officials for a number of months with an eye toward better regulating and controlling the numbers of vendors who operate on the beach.

On Tuesday, Ministry of Tourism Deputy Chief Officer Dalton Watler visited the beach, only to see that government’s plan for the area has yet to be implemented.

The scene at Public Beach on Tuesday. – Photo: Brent Fuller
The scene at Public Beach on Tuesday. – Photo: Brent Fuller

Mr. Watler said another extension, for 45 days, has been granted to the vendors, taking them through mid-September “at the latest” to comply with local laws and gain permission from Cabinet to operate their businesses on public land.

At the center of the difficulty for the vendors, most of whom are self-employed or who run small “mom-and-pop” operations, are licensing requirements to provide pensions and healthcare for themselves and any employees they might have, Mr. Watler said.

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“Some of them still need to provide health [coverage], pension and insurance, in the case of the Jet Skis [operators],” Mr. Watler said. “They have already complied with the courses we put in place, the ‘know your Cayman Islands,’ the customer service. Some have done CPR courses as well.”

Mr. Watler said the Trade and Business Licensing Board has agreed to give the vendors – now numbering between 38 and 45 – another 45 days to get their operations in order. The vendors were granted a 30-day extension in July, with government officials hoping they could become licensed by the end of the month and begin operating in a specifically defined area away from the waterfront.

Garth Arch, chairman of the Trade and Business Licensing Board, said the 45-day extension is the final one the board intends to approve for the vendors.

Mr. Watler said Wednesday that the initial 30-day extension was not enough time and that government did not want to force the Public Beach operators to shut down.

“That doesn’t help,” he said. “The idea for them is to be self-sustaining. It might sound like we are trying to just put red tape out there, but the government is doing what they require for [the vendors] to operate businesses that can comply with social norms and comply with the law.”

“We ask people to be patient,” he added.

The government has identified a specific location behind the public bathroom in the Public Beach area, where Mr. Watler said it was proposed to put 16 government-funded kiosks for vendors to operate from.

The vendors cannot be moved there now, he said, because the kiosks have not been set up and the vendors are not licensed – essentially they are continuing to operate illegally. The extension period serves to prevent them from facing fines issued by the Department of Commerce and Investment while the situation is resolved.

He acknowledged that not all of the vendors will be able to fit into the 16 kiosks government has proposed to set up, but he said some of the vendors could share the stalls.

“The idea is to have a minimum presence [of vendors] on the beach so that people can walk and do things on it,” he said.

Residents and businesses along Seven Mile Beach have put significant pressure on government since the start of this year, complaining that unlicensed vendors, discarded trash and dangerous watercraft operations have created a “lawless mentality” on the beach.

“The very symbol of this beautiful island and the magnet that draws both Caymanians and multitudes of tourists is being destroyed before our very eyes,” read the residents’ eight-page letter sent to Tourism Ministry Councilor Joey Hew.

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  1. First I must say this is a beautiful picture. Looks ok to me, however I do support, that the vendors are cautioned about garbage and unsightly set ups. The last thing we want to see is trash and garbage all over the beach. So to control this my suggestion is that someone is hired on a permanent basis with a rolling garbage can, cleaning up all day.
    Also there must be control that every Dick Tom and Harry from all over the “Globe” is not taking advantage of a space, because we will then find all sorts setting up, Illegals, over stayers, holiday visitors and the list can go on. If this happens then I am sure there are going to be beach fights.
    I agree with vendors having a license displayed, I support the beach venue, but it should be controlled properly.

  2. I don’t understand the Government , with its rules and regulations and departments.
    This whole beach vendors situation sound like there’s a lot of people talking but only one man running the show . Then it sounds more like harassment Than making sure that we have business minded vendors .

    Why do Government have to give these vendors a other 45 days to comply with what is supposed for the criteria for Government business . How long has these vendors been in operation on the beach ? Why they don’t have the money to buy health insurance, which is the biggest expense to fully comply , says that these vendors are only doing this to make a buck today , and don’t want to comply with Government , and should not be given a other 45 days to comply.

    Why are Government setting 16 kiosks at the beach ? Is that crowding the beach more to look more like some where else but Cayman Islands . Where are the protection for the businesses that is near public beach that are fully complying with Government and hiring more people .

    I think that Government should only allow certain kind of and number of vendors on the beach, the most important, or none at all to keep it looking like Cayman Islands , and not like some where else .

  3. It is a disgrace that this situation is allowed to continue. Many small business that are one or two people are in full compliance with the law. Many have additional costs such as boat insurance, membership in professional organization etc. They actually pay for space to store their goods when they are not in use. They are scraping by keeping up with all the mandates that are put on them and in compliance with the law. How about a rebate for the all the small businesses that are in compliance for the period of time that these “vendors” are receiving. Not having to pay for TBL, pension, health insurance and any of the associated fees to comply would put food on the table for many businesses not just the ones that are being allowed to operate outside the law! Most laughable comment above is that some of the jet ski ops have done CPR . . . when a guest in the water gets injured or killed by an illegal jet ski what good is the CPR from the illegal operator on the beach? However when the government gets sued for allowing these practices to continue when there is clear evidence they are totally aware of the activity maybe someone will wake up. Hopefully its before an event for the sake of the ops who pay their insurance and will no doubt see their rates sky rocket after an event. Nice press too — after all the efforts of CITA to promote tourism, this totally unfair to the organization and everyone of its members. This is not about giving/attending “good manners” classes or CPR which should be a given, it is about the law being fair across the board to all businesses and not making exceptions for those that obviously don’t give a darn about the law or the government that is supposed to enforce it.

  4. Seems to me that the problem with this picture is the empty beach chairs and sun umbrellas.
    They are limiting the space available for people who don’t want to rent one and instead bring their own beach chair and towel.
    Seems to me that they should be kept piled up and only put out when someone has paid to rent them.
    If they should be there at all, of course.