Candidate pleads not guilty to beach vending charge

Raul Gonzalez Jr.

Raul Gonzalez Jr., independent candidate for Newlands, appeared in Summary Court last week, charged with carrying on a business without a valid trade and business license.

Defense attorney Phillip Ebanks confirmed that his client is a candidate in the May 24 general election.

Mr. Ebanks is representing several people formally and informally who are accused of doing business on the beach without a license. They all received a ticket issued by an enforcement officer from the Department of Commerce and Investment.

Magistrate Valdis Foldats put the charge to Raul Gonzalez – that on Sept. 15, 2016, at Seven Mile Beach, West Bay, he carried on a business of Blue Water Island Adventure Tours without holding a valid trade and business license.

The defendant replied, “Not guilty.”

His position was that he had a license, Mr. Ebanks explained. The license states that Mr. Gonzalez’s place of business is his office, “as all licenses do,” Mr. Ebanks told the court.

He pointed out further that water sports do not take place in an office – and such businesses were known to change their location of operation based on the weather. Many of the docks from which they leave are public places, he said.

The magistrate said it seemed like “a novel legal issue” and asked if Mr. Ebanks had approached the Legal Department about it.

Crown counsel Greg Walcolm confirmed that he had.

Mr. Ebanks noted that another magistrate had discharged the case last October.

The magistrate pointed out that the charge before him was laid in November.

Mr. Ebanks replied that it related to a ticket.

A case management date was set for April 20.

The next defendant, similarly charged, was Eric Ebanks, who was also represented by Mr. Ebanks. The attorney said that while the matter was somewhat different, it involved the activity of chair and umbrella rental in the same area.

He commented that numerous government officials have weighed in on the matter and have given undertakings that there will be a board set up to deal with businesses on Seven Mile Beach.

Mr. Walcolm also referred to a commission that is to be set up for businesses operating on public land.

He made his comment during mention of the case of Seymour Silburn, who has pleaded guilty to carrying on the business of Seymour’s Jerk Chicken on Seven Mile Beach without a valid business license on Sept. 15. He said he has since taken the courses he was told to take, but he has not reopened his business because now he has to get insurance, but the cost was $600 per month “and I can’t afford that.” He said he was searching around to see if he could get a better price.

The magistrate said that right now there was no harm to the public because Mr. Silburn was not operating and he was attempting to rectify the matter.

Since Mr. Walcolm has recently been designated to deal with this type of case, the matter was also put to April 20.

The fourth defendant, Sheila Bodden, told the court she wanted to speak to Mr. Ebanks before her next court appearance, so her case was set for April 20 also. She is charged with selling handcrafts and jewelry at the West Bay Public Beach in the vicinity of the public dock on Sept. 22, 2016, without a valid business license.

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