Six new liquor licenses have been granted to gas stations, including one to sell alcohol on Sundays.
However, several applications from liquor stores to open on Sundays were not granted by the Liquor Licensing Board following its meeting last week.
Peanuts store at the Red Bay Rubis station, which was already approved to sell alcohol, has been granted a retail liquor license, which will allow it to sell alcohol on Sundays.
Five other gas stations – Mike’s Esso on Seven Mile Beach, Jose’s on Crewe Road, Brown’s Esso stations in Red Bay and the George Town Industrial Park, and Rubis on Seven Mile Beach, were each granted package liquor licenses.
Separate applications from Prentice Panton to open his Liquor for Less and Meringue Town stores on Sundays were rejected.
The board did not give reasons for its decisions. Acting chairman Woodward DaCosta did not return calls and emails from the Cayman Compass this week.
The Compass understands that the law, as currently interpreted by the board, allows for bulk sales of a six-pack of beer or more to be allowed on Sundays under a “retail license,” which is what was sought by and granted to Peanuts.
The other gas stations applied for “package licenses,” which allows alcohol to be sold during the week but not on Sundays. Attorney Cline Glidden, who represented several gas stations at Friday’s meeting, indicated he would be seeking retail licenses for other gas stations at the next board meeting.
Mr. Panton said he was disappointed that the board turned down his request for Sunday opening at his stores on Airport Road, George Town and Savannah, which have package licenses.
Mr. Panton said he could not see why a different type of license was required to sell on Sundays, but would consider his options in light of the board’s decision.
Speaking at the meeting last Friday, Mr. Glidden, representing Peanuts at Red Bay Esso, said the store had received numerous requests from customers for Sunday service and wanted to offer liquor to locals and tourists seven days a week.
The board granted a request for a retail liquor license and declined a separate request from the same store for a beer and wine license, which would have allowed it to sell in smaller quantities.
Robert Hamaty of Tortuga Rum Company, who spoke at last Friday’s meeting to protest the granting of licenses to gas stations, told the Compass the law is “a joke.”
He said, “My views on the matter is that this is total madness. They are changing the whole landscape of how liquor licenses operate in the country.”
He believes the granting of licenses to sell liquor on Sundays through a retail license is a loophole that exploits a mistake in the law.
Mr. Hamaty said he believes there had been a legislative drafting mistake and the actual intent of the law in respect of “retail licenses” was to limit carry-out sales from bars and restaurants to small quantities, not to allow buying in bulk.
He said the “mistake” was already being used by some businesses to sell booze on Sundays and now appeared to be interpreted by the board to allow sales on Sundays from anyone with a retail license.
Mr. Hamaty also raised general concerns at the meeting about liquor licenses being granted to gas stations. He said that a Cabinet order, first made in 2002, forbade the sale of intoxicating liquor at gas stations and had not been revoked. He called on the attorney general to clarify the legality of granting liquor licenses to gas stations and urged the board not to grant the licenses.
The businessman also took issue with comments from acting board chair Mr. DaCosta in a television interview that he was trying to protect his empire.
“The only empire I know on this island is the gas stations and Mr. Dart,” he said.
“Show me proof that the Cabinet order was replaced and the prohibition has been lifted,” he said.
Mr. DaCosta, speaking at the meeting, said the board had taken legal advice on the matter.
“We have a revised law and several different memos from government stating that aspect of it,” he said.