The Cayman Islands has nearly 30 petrol stations and just three of them were ever allowed to obtain liquor licenses.
That may be about to change.
An application for package liquor license has been made for the new Rubis/Burger King complex under construction on Shamrock Road.
Complex owner Gary Rutty said Friday that the new facility, including a convenience store where he wants to sell beer and wine, should be open within the next two or three weeks, if all goes according to plan.
“I would like to have a convenience store where you can just ‘grab and go,’ basically,” Mr. Rutty said.
The application for the package license is due to come before the Liquor Licensing Board of Grand Cayman on Dec. 5.
Objections to the application by three liquor store owners were filed with the board this week.
“It has been government’s policy since 2002 not to grant liquor licenses to gas stations,” read the objection letter signed by Robert Hamaty, Prentice Panton and David Khouri. “There are 26 gas stations and three in [Cayman] Brac. Only three of these have licenses.”
Those licenses were granted to two stations in Bodden Town and the George Town station formerly known as Delworth’s Esso”, which at one time was considered “out in the country” before Grand Cayman’s significant development boom in the 1980s and 1990s.
“These three stations were granted licenses many years ago due to the fact that the area was not adequately served and they are now ‘grandfathered’ in,” the objection letter read. “If this new license is granted, how will the Liquor Licensing Board justify refusing applications from the 22 other stations on [Grand Cayman]?”
As far as the Cayman Compass is aware, no other petrol stations with convenience stores have made such an application to the liquor board.
Mr. Rutty said he was cautious about engaging in debate over a matter due to come before the liquor board in just a week. He noted, however, that his attorneys had reviewed the law and stated, “There’s nothing in it that says we can’t have it.”
The objectors are relying on a Cabinet order in 2002, under the previous United Democratic Party government, which states: “The Liquor Licensing Board shall not grant a license for disposal of intoxicating liquor or spirits by a gas station.”
Other than the few “grandfathered” stations, neither convenience stores nor grocery stores have ever been allowed to sell alcohol, although Mr. Rutty points out that is not the norm in many parts of the Western Hemisphere, including the U.S., Canada and Jamaica, although in some Canadian provinces, like Ontario, the change was made only recently for grocery stores.
Mr. Hamaty said the Bahamas is one country in the Caribbean region that does restrict liquor sales at gas stations.
“We could turn this place into Jamaica, where liquor is available everywhere 24-7 and see what happens then,” said Mr. Hamaty, the founder of the Tortuga group of companies.
Mr. Rutty said he believes Cayman needs to “change with the times.” He noted that the liquor board, only a few years ago, approved the extension of opening times for package stores from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. In that situation, there were just a few liquor stores in the outer districts that were allowed to stay open until 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. to serve the populations in the more remote areas.
“The purpose of the Liquor Licensing Law is to control the dispensation of alcohol, a controlled drug, and that … it should be reserved for bars, restaurants, party boats, hotels and designated liquor stores and not for gas stations, supermarkets or fast food outlets,” the objection letter stated.