The Cayman Islands government has tried just about everything to address the problem of unlicensed vendors operating on Seven Mile Beach — reams of paperwork, customer service training, sternly worded warnings, promises of kiosks, plans for uniforms, etc. — everything, that is, except for this: enforcing existing laws.

Now, lawmakers are proposing legislation to create an appointed five-member commission to regulate the vendors (and other businesses wishing to operate on Crown land).

We can safely say that after a years-long battle between the government and a handful of beach vendors, we can finally declare a winner: the beach vendors.

With so much at stake — the reputation of Grand Cayman’s finest beach, the quality of Cayman’s tourism product, the safety of visitors and residents — our elected Progressives leadership has demonstrated an astounding incapacity to deal in a forthright and forceful way with a situation whose solution is obvious, easy and simple.

The vendors’ continuing ability to operate without trade and business licenses (which government hasn’t been granting when they apply) and without lawful permission to be on Crown land, and presumably without abiding by legal requirements to provide health insurance, contribute to pensions and maintain liability insurance, is a highly visible repudiation of laws regulating private businesses in Cayman — and by extension all laws on the books in this country.

If the beach vendors can conduct business without paying costs for permits, planning permission, healthcare, pensions or insurance, why should any of their legally operating competitors, who are also trying to sell goods and provide services to tourists, follow the expensive and often-onerous rules? If the beach vendors are being given a blanket exemption from regulations, why should any business in Cayman attempt to abide by the letter of the law? Why should any individual in their daily life?

When complaints about the unlicensed beach vendors first reached the ears of elected members, they had a simple, binary choice, each of which carried potential political ramifications among voters (who might be beach vendors, their friends or relatives, or the residents who are protesting):

Option 1 — Enforce the law, move the vendors off public land and put them out of business.

Option 2 — Change the law to “legalize” beach vending, once and for all.

The newly proposed legislation does neither. Nor, by itself, will the five-person commission. (How does granting a “vendor’s license” address the lack of health insurance and liability insurance, for example?)

What the establishment of the five-person commission will do is to spare elected government officials from making a definitive decision on the beach vendors, to dilute accountability for what happens on Seven Mile Beach and to create yet another opportunity for the arising of conflicts of interest and impropriety within Cayman’s regulatory apparatus.

Throughout the beach vendor saga, the government’s directives have been all over the place depending on the ministry or minister who is speaking at the moment, ranging from tough talk, to laissez-faire to la-di-da.

The vendors, meanwhile, have had a remarkably consistent message:

“See you on the beach tomorrow.”

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5 COMMENTS

  1. This new Board that’s been formed, that would be just like any other board in Government . Where the board is controlled by the Government . This is why you see the new board would be made of 5 people , 3 civil servants appointees and 2 citizens , that 3 civil servants would be the migiortty vote on any matter . Who would be in control of the migiortty ?

    Then it’s too close to the Election for these Politicians to think straight on how to do something like this .
    I know that politicians are suppose to be tough people , but now they are worried about stepping on someone toes and getting that vote .

    The issue of using public beach space for profit for a few people is going to be a much bigger problem in the future. How would you refuse a other Caymanian the rights to open another business on this beach ?
    Then what happens when you have too many vendors and no space for the public to enjoy the beach ?

    I think that the government need to be thinking about how to spread out the numbers of Cruise ship passengers over the Island. Not trying to make a bigger mess of one Public beach .

    Just like the sand bar / sting ray city, see what that’s become . I don’t understand why someone is not thinking of how to devert some of the congestion from the sand bar . I know that it’s hard to find a better place, but I think that the shallow bar to the south of sand bar could be used to devert traffic and ray’s . But you have to start it .

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  2. As simple as we may think this issue is . Forming a new Board that would control and could influence regulations , off public property / public beach.
    Then we have the possibility of 2 off the board members being vendors of this said public property .
    Do we see the potential problems that could come in the future with this property ?

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  3. I did a rough count of the beach chairs stacked up on the public beach. About 500 mostly ratty looking beach loungers.

    Just wrong to allow these folk to block access to the beach by members of the PUBLIC.

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  4. Kick the can down the road…or the beach…
    This effort will not solve the Illegal Beach Vendor problem. It merely makes it look like Government is making an attempt to fix the problem. This “action” by Government allows the illegal, unsightly, and annoying problem to exist a while longer. I predict nothing will get done even after the Board is selected.

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