Liquor sales at gas stations

The gas station/Burger King complex on Shamrock Road is nearing completion. It may be able to sell beer and wine when it opens, depending on what the Liquor Licensing Board decides. - Photo: Brent Fuller

I am publicly calling for an investigation by Minister Wayne Panton into the cabinet order 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2010 regarding the prohibition of gas stations obtaining liquor licenses.

At the Liquor Licensing Board meeting held Dec. 5, 2016, Prentice Panton, David Khouri and myself appeared before the Board to object to an application brought by Gary Rutty/Peanuts Ltd. for a grant of a package liquor license within the precincts of a gas station in Prospect, the details of which are already well known to the Board. The basis of the objection, was twofold:

That the previous Chairman, Campbell Law had acted ultra vires when he incorrectly made the grant for the license unilaterally under Section 13 of the Liquor Licensing Law (2016 Revision) instead of a consideration before the full Board under Section 12; and

That the grant was prohibited by the existence of an Order in Cabinet which had existed at least since 2002 prohibiting grants to gas stations.

It was my contention that the prohibition was a separate order, separate from lifting the moratorium and that it was not automatically revoked when the period, lifting the moratorium, had expired. We further contended that for the prohibition to be revoked it would have required a subsequent gazette order. The Board disagreed with us and made the grant in favor of Garry Rutty/Peanuts Ltd.

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However, we had asked for the matter to be referred to the Attorney General as a matter of national importance considering that it went against long established practice, that saw a moral incongruity with gas stations serving alcohol and gas in the same establishment, not to mention that in the event that our arguments proved to be correct, the action of the Board would have been ultra vires and the license and any subsequent license so granted would be void. These reasons are separate from the obvious economic fallout that the 75 package liquor license retail industry would suffer, when all gas stations (backed by powerful petrol franchises like Esso and Sol) inevitably applied for liquor licenses to match their competition Rubis, and there are 27 gas stations in the Cayman Islands.

As far as I am aware no steps have been taken since the December meeting to refer the question for the Attorney General’s consideration. It is important to do so because it is primarily a legal question that requires a legal determination which the Board, with all due respect, is not able to adequately address since no member of the Board is legally trained. The matter should not therefore be left up to chance since the subsequent decisions of the Board can be possibly compromised if future decisions are ever challenged in a court of law.

The previous Chairman, Campbell Law, purported to make the grant to Garry Rutty/Peanuts Ltd. under section 13 of the Liquor Licensing Law (2016 Revision); it is important to note that the advertisement for the December meeting that appeared in the Oct. 20, 2016, edition of the Cayman Compass indicated that the grant had already been made and that what was to occur at the Dec. 5, 2016, meeting was a ratification of that decision. Although the notice indicates that the application was made under Section 12, the text of the advertisement clearly says that the grant had already been considered by the Chairman in advance of the Dec. 5 meeting and that it was to be considered for ratification at the next session.

This would have been in direct violation of the law, which requires all new licenses to be considered before a full hearing of the Liquor Licensing Board, and therefore any grant outside of that hearing would be ultra vires and the license void.

These issues are of such national importance that they require a full investigation by you, Minister Panton, and a determination by the Attorney General in his capacity as legal advisor to the government.

I therefore call on the Liquor Licensing Office/The Department of Commerce and Investment to refer these matters outlined above to his offices for urgent review and consideration.

Robert Hamaty

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  1. If Mr Hamaty had stuck to rum cakes he wouldn’t have a problem. As to the moral incongruity I would suggest that 95% of his liquor customers arrive at his premises by car. I think we should allow supermarkets to open Sundays and allow them to sell alcohol like they do in most European countries and in North America, but maybe not on Sundays to reflect the strong feelings of our religious communities.