Granting liquor licenses to a local gas station/Burger King complex in Prospect will open a “Pandora’s Box” that could eventually “kill off” locally operating liquor stores, three store owners told the Liquor Licensing Board Monday.

The objections of the liquor store owners to businessman Gary Rutty’s application to sell beer and wine in his soon-to-be-opened convenience store on Shamrock Road were merely attempts to “maintain their monopoly” over the local alcohol industry, according to Mr. Rutty’s attorney.

The liquor board had not made its decision on Mr. Rutty’s application as of press time Monday.

Local attorney Cline Glidden, Jr., representing Mr. Rutty, told board members that his client was a well-established businessman who had run a number of customer service establishments, including the local Burger King franchise and Stingers Restaurant at the Comfort Suites hotel. Mr. Glidden said there was no reason to believe Mr. Rutty and his wife would run the new business on Shamrock Road any differently than the others.

“The objections [of the liquor store owners] are not founded in any deficiencies in my client’s application,” Mr. Glidden said. “They see it as in their best interests to limit competition.”

None of the objectors, who included Tortuga founder Robert Hamaty and Liquor-4-Less owner Prentice Panton, said their concerns involved Mr. Rutty, who Mr. Hamaty described as a “family friend.” Rather, Mr. Hamaty said, a successful application by Mr. Rutty would pave the way for an international conglomerate, Rubis, to open other gas station liquor stores and get into the liquor distribution side of the business.

Mr. Hamaty said that he was aware of other international retailers operating in Cayman, including Cost-U-Less, who were keen to get into the liquor distribution business.

Eventually, Mr. Hamaty said, even “the big boys” in the local liquor business would be underpriced and cut out of the distribution end of the market, where the “real money” is made, he said. Liquor sales, meanwhile, would occur at every corner store, supermarket and petrol station.

“There [are] going to be umpteen applications,” he told the board. “There are 76 retail package stores [on the island]. My company employs 120 people. If every gas station gets a liquor license … the industry is threatened.”

One of the key points raised by the objectors to Mr. Rutty’s liquor license was that a Cabinet order, first made in 2002, forbade the sale of intoxicating liquor at gas stations. Mr. Hamaty said that Cabinet order was continued through the present day, save for a handful of petrol stations (one in George Town and two in Bodden Town) who had effectively been “grandfathered” in for their own liquor licenses during the 1970s and 1980s.

However, Mr. Glidden said that Cabinet order was made by a previous government and he argued that changes approved to the local Liquor Licensing Law, which took effect last year, made the order moot.

Mr. Hamaty asked for the attorney general to issue an opinion on the matter.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. Competition and convenience are good for buyers. Competition will lower prices fair and reduce the chances of price fixing. Honest and fair sellers will not fear competition.

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  2. Competition and convenience are good for customers. Competition should reduce prices to the consumer and lead to more sales for competitive sellers. Welcome to the world of economics.

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  3. Mr Hamaty probably has more liquor stores than anyone else, when he started off selling only rum cakes. He makes a fortune out of his exorbitantly priced cakes so a bit of competition in his liquor trade will hardly hurt him.

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  4. Competition / convenience , Cayman Islands is too small for either one to be effective . The topic of discussion alcohol , I don’t think that Cayman Islands should have a rum store on every corner at $5 .00 per bottle , and that is what COMPETITION could cause when Government open the door for this gas station. Then what is it that everyone can’t get enough of today ? Money . Then what and who are going to stop these business owners from getting together and fixing the prices so that everyone can make a good $ of the products. Then we have a lot of rum CONVENIENT to us at a reasonable price.

    I think that Alcohol and Drugs are the biggest problem in the society and we don’t need to grow that bigger . Remember that when Associations get together they protect their own intrest / product .

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  5. I think the argument is getting pulled in the wrong direction, many first world countries restrict alcohol sales to motorists, and place restrictions on gas station sales in order to try and reduce DUI. The argument against is always that a motorist can get drink from an established retail outlet, then drive, but when you have a gas station that attracts drivers as their main client, adding alcohol to the offering must add some additional risk. So I think the real question is ‘are we OK with that’? If the answer is yes, then go ahead and grant the licence, if no, then retain the restrictions.

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  6. Even you don’t agree with their arguments you have to applaud the objectors for admitting pretty much what I posted a few days ago that this isn’t about sensible regulation but protectionism.

    They have obviously seen what happened in the UK and realised that it won’t stop at selling alcohol in gas stations. Once you break the current monopoly it will be very difficult to stop the process extending to convenience stores and supermarkets. In fact the reference to Cost-U-Less is very telling because in St Thomas they’re (I’m assuming this is the same chain) reckoned to be one of the cheapest places to buy alcohol.

    One problem here is we’re getting fixated on gas stations and the emotive connections with licensing them whereas the real issue is much wider. If gas stations are allowed to sell alcohol it is going to be very difficult to argue that other retail outlets can’t follow suit.

    Personally, I find it very handy to be able to buy a six-pack at a corner gas station and I really miss being able to pick up beer, wine or spirits with my supermarket shopping like I could do when living in the UK.

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