A throng of unlicensed beach vendors has packed into Grand Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach since the issue erupted into the spotlight early this year, while there has been no apparent enforcement of rules or any working agreement between government and the vendors.

Late last week, rental chairs were stacked high along the beachfront, and the chairs in use were placed right at the water line next to Jet Skis beached on shore. One vendor had a large truck parked on the sand at the beachfront, and multiple food and beverage vendors set up shop closer to the beach parking area.

Two months ago, many of these vendors were fined $500 by the government Department of Commerce and Investment for operating unlicensed businesses on Crown land.

However, their operations have not been removed, and problems apparently arose with at least one of those citations.

“It went to court, it got thrown out,” said beach vendor Raul Gonzales, who runs Blue Water Islands Adventure Tours, which rents Jet Ski rides and offers snorkeling tours to beach visitors.

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Attorney Phillip Ebanks, who has been representing some of the beach vendors involved in the controversy, confirmed last week that Mr. Gonzales’s fine was dropped in Summary Court. Mr. Gonzales said he was unaware as of Saturday that any other vendors had been called to court to contest their citations.

Both Mr. Ebanks and Mr. Gonzales said they believe a meeting is being scheduled with Ministry of Tourism officials to discuss the entire beach vending matter, but it has not happened yet.

“They’re still giving us the run-around,” Mr. Gonzales said. “The government told us they were going to take care of it and not to worry about it.”

However, Mr. Gonzales said, that was not the message he received from senior Planning Ministry and Tourism Ministry officials last week.

Vendor kiosks that the government said would be set up toward the southeastern corner of Public Beach at Seven Mile Beach, behind the public bathroom facility, have not materialized. Mr. Gonzales said he was told last week that the kiosks, a central tenet of the earlier agreement beach vendors had with government, would not be built for at least another 18 months to two years.

Seven Mile Public Beach on Thursday had plenty of beach chairs. - Photo: Brent Fuller
Seven Mile Public Beach on Thursday had plenty of beach chairs. – Photo: Brent Fuller

Meanwhile, he said, the beach vendors had met all licensing requirements – including tourism training – and had attempted to pay for and collect operating licenses, only to be told by the Lands and Survey Department of the Planning Ministry in October that those licenses did not exist, as far as officials were aware.

“They told us we could set up behind the bathrooms, but that’s just not feasible right now,” Mr. Gonzales said. “They haven’t even marked out a spot [behind the rest room area]. We ain’t getting anywhere.”

Tourism Ministry Deputy Chief Officer Dalton Watler said in late October that a list of Public Beach vendors who had qualified to keep operating in the area was released in September. As far as his ministry was concerned, Mr. Watler said, those vendors had met the requirements of tourism and customer service training standards. Other issues involving licensing and public land operations were not in the tourism ministry’s purview, he said.

Planning ministry officials have never responded to Cayman Compass questions on the issue.

A half-dozen vendors who were fined $500 by the Department of Commerce and Investment said in November that they would attend court dates rather than pay the fine. A number of vendors told the Cayman Compass that they tried on various occasions to obtain a trade and business license but were foiled by the bureaucratic process.

The beach vending issue arose during 2012-2013 and came to the fore again in March 2016 when condo owners, including those at Harbour Heights and the Avalon Condominiums near Public Beach, voiced concerns to government officials about illegal vendors “overrunning” Seven Mile Beach.

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  1. If this is the way it looks down there, this looks nice. I believe the department responsible will have to do certain things to make this right. First they should ensure that persons operating here have the legal rights, eg. a business license, and are Caymanians. Even those helping out must be legal Caymanians or have a legal work permit with the person they are helping out. The place must be constantly kept clean round the clock, absolutely no garbage around. Tourist and visitors are not being harassed. Proper equipment used for rental and stalls, no cardboard and canvas tops with wooden benches and sticks like we see in other Caribbean countries. That’s deplorable. So much more I could list, however this is a struggle with the department to cope with so do the right thing, and in doing this make sure it is extended to other public beaches on the island, if not I am sure politics has an ugly face in it and we on the Eastern end of the island will be taking note..

  2. It looks like all the prime space near the water has been taken over by vendors and their beach loungers. As this is public beach don’t the public have a right to sit on this beach without having to rent a longer or beach chair?. It seems they are being relegated to the back part of the beach.

  3. Miss Bell in another letter to the editor you said people should not expect that we build a pier . We must find other businesses or jobs . They did, now what? Why don’t we follow our sister colony and maintain jobs for the locals first at proper cost of living wages? Maybe better yet create a law that says at least 50% training and jobs for Caymanians plus 40 hours per week or no T&B license? You know, its coming ,real soon. Why ? High school graduates close to a 1000 children , if even 1/2 go to college and graduate who will employ them? Gov’t? Tourism? Finance? Medical Tourism? How many will be lucky and then the next year and the next?? Something has to change. Normally old people retire now they got to work. Best thing is go back to the land and live like we did before grow everything stop depending on outside and don’t sell no more land. When everyone does it why do you need to sell. You can change swampland to cattle ranches then we can export our products to other countries. Doesn’t gov’t still offer a bulldozer to knock down trees and bush for free? Oh by the way Central Mangrove land is zoned agricultural, you know its starting to make sense I will bring down every mangrove on 150 acres of land for free. Thanks for the thought Miss Bell.

  4. Here is a suggestion for the public beach on West Bay Rd.
    Do as they do in France and other countries.

    Have part of the beach free of all vendors. No one is allowed to set up business there of any kind.

    Rent the other part to businesses.
    If you open a store in a shopping center you expect to pay rent to a landlord.
    Want to be in the beach chair rental business, fine, that’s valuable beach space you’re occupying and it shouldn’t be free.

    Perhaps the front 50 ft should be business free. Leaving the beach chair folk behind that.

    Hopefully that would keep everyone happy and raise some revenue for the government.

  5. Norman

    Isn’t that exactly what the attempted business licensing regime by the Govt. is intended or should be intended to achieve…in principle ?

    The problem does not lie with these ‘vendors’ who are nothing more than hustlers who saw an opportunity to make a buck off selling services that were not being offered to visitors of the designated ‘public area’ of the 7-Mile Beach.

    You can put the blame squarely on the CI Govt, who’s job it was to provide facilities for users of the beach….over the years, all that has been provided there is a few cabanas, toilet facilities and garbage collection bins….the Govts.’ neglect of developing this part of the beach for public use and comfort has led to these private ‘entrepeneurs’ seizing the opportunity to set up and hustle their services to users of the beach

    Another aggravating factor is the Dart roads deal that allowed for the building of the Kimpton Hotel right next to the public beach and the car park that was part of the deal.

    In essence, the public beach has become commercialised by the presence of this hotel and increases the customer and earning potential of these vendors….which highlights the situation of unregulated and unlicensed business ventures being operated on the beach.

    The CI Govts’ business licensing regime is a patchwork of inter-connected depts and systems, where one dept. does not necessarily know or relate to what another is doing and was not intended for the regularising of this ‘beach vendor’ situation, therefore the CI courts will throw out any charges or fines levied against these vendors until the CI Govt. sets up a unified businesses licensing regime that will help these..and other…small business owners to operate legally, under well-established and publicised rules and regulations.

    And, to be honest about it, don’t hold your breath on that happening any time soon.