The Cayman Islands will be “dry” on Wednesday – no alcohol sales are allowed – between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. as per the Elections Law.
However, the extent to which alcohol will be unavailable may catch some visitors and residents off-guard.
Section 91 of the Elections Law states: “No intoxicating liquor shall be sold, offered for sale or given away at any premises situated in any electoral district in which an election is being held, to which a license is issued under the Liquor Licensing Law applies, or any time between the opening of the poll and one hour after the close of the poll.”
The ban on alcohol sales extends not only to liquor stores, but also to restaurants and bars during the voting hours.
Taking a boat out of the water will not let drinkers evade the law either. Commercial boat operators are also banned from selling or serving alcohol on Election Day.
Also, alcohol cannot be purchased at duty-free shops at the cruise port or airports between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
According to Department of Commerce and Investment Director Ryan Rajkumarsingh, sales or use of liquor can resume after 7 p.m. The Liquor Licensing Board can exempt a bar serving an airport or a duty-free shop operating in an airport or seaport, but it has not done so.
“Once licenced premises are able to reopen, they are to adhere to the usual closing hours and procedures set out on their liquor licences,” Mr. Rajkumarsingh said.
Historically, concern about the use of intoxicating liquor on Election Day, a public holiday in Cayman, is twofold. The first concern was documented in a 1954 letter written by then-territorial Commissioner Andrew Morris Gerrard – the potential to use alcohol to bribe voters.
“The principal electioneering weapon is rum. It is unwise to make any predictions [about the election outcome] whatsoever,” Mr. Gerrard wrote in private correspondence published in the definitive Cayman Islands historical text “Founded upon the seas: A history of the Cayman Islands and their people.”
The second worry is that drunken, rowdy individuals will show up at polling stations and disrupt the voting.
Elections Supervisor Wesley Howell pointed out last week that he was unaware of any arrests occurring at a Cayman Islands polling station at any time in the past 20 years.
The alcohol sales ban lasts only during the polling period. However, Tortuga Rum Company founder Robert Hamaty said he recalled one year when a vote recount caused the polls’ closure to be delayed for around 48 hours.
“For two days, you couldn’t get a drink on this island,” he said.
Mr. Hamaty said the liquor ban is entirely unnecessary when it comes to tourists departing the islands, who would not be able to buy a drink even upon their departure. He said he did not believe this part of the ban was the intent of the Elections Law, which seeks to prevent alcohol consumption on island.