The Liquor Licensing Board of Grand Cayman has claimed a previously announced decision to grant a license to a gas station to sell alcohol on Sundays was sent out in error.
Peanuts convenience store at the Red Bay gas station was advised, in a list of decisions sent to the Department of Commerce and Investment and the media after a meeting in March, that its application for a retail liquor license had been approved. The gas station was the first in Cayman to be granted the right to sell alcohol and would have been the first to be granted permission for Sunday sales since a ban on booze sales in gas stations was lifted.
The Liquor Board now says that decision was sent out in error and the application was actually adjourned and later rejected.
Peanuts had already been granted a package liquor license at the previous board meeting, which enabled it to sell liquor Monday to Saturday. The retail license, more typically used for bars and restaurants, would have enabled it to sell on Sundays.
The decision to grant the Sunday license appears to be verified by the list of liquor license holders issued by the Department of Commerce and Investment for April, May and June, all of which list Peanuts as having two licenses – a package license effective from Dec. 5, 2016, and a retail license, effective from March 28, 2017. Both expire on Sept. 30 this year, according to the list.
However, full minutes from the Liquor Board’s March meeting, which appeared much later on the Department of Commerce and Investment website, contradict that and suggest Peanuts was never granted a license to serve liquor on Sundays.
Liquor board chairman Woody DaCosta said incorrect information had been sent out after the meeting on March 24 and 28 indicating that the license was granted.
He attributed this to an “untimely and unauthorized release” by a member of Department of Commerce and Investment staff. He said the error must have been inadvertently repeated on the department’s list of license holders.
In any case, Mr. DaCosta said a license is not verified and deemed approved until the business owner had been issued with a “Form 3” and affixed it to the door of their premises. Anyone who sold liquor without that form was liable to a $10,000 fine, he said, and should “cease and desist.”
It is understood that Peanuts has now ceased to sell alcohol on Sundays.
Mr. DaCosta said the decision had to be delayed, in part, because of a complaint from Tortuga Rum Company owner Robert Hamaty, who had suggested the board did not have the authority to lift a moratorium on the granting of any licenses to gas stations.
He said the board sought advice from the Attorney General on the issues raised by Mr. Hamaty and the wider application of the new Liquor Licensing Law. Following that review, he said, the board reconvened and rejected Peanuts’ application on the basis of a new policy that will restrict all liquor license holders to one type of license only.
He said the review had also confirmed that Mr. Hamaty’s complaint was baseless and that the introduction of the 2016 Liquor License superceded the previous order in relation to gas stations.
The minutes of the meeting now published on the Department of Commerce and Investment website refer to only two meetings, on March 24 and 28, and it is not clear when the decision to reject the application was actually taken. The minutes recap attorney Cline Glidden’s submission on behalf of Peanuts that the gas station had received a positive response since being granted a package license to serve alcohol during the week and was seeking the additional retail license to allow it to do so on Sunday.
The minutes state, “The Board agreed by consensus that the letter and spirit of Liquor Law is very clear insofar that Convenience Stores, be they located in gas stations or elsewhere are not to conduct business as set forth in section 10(4) of the Liquor Law, where intoxicating liquor can be consumed on the premises.”
It goes on to indicate that Mr. Rutty’s application was rejected.
Asked for comment this week, Mr. Rutty said, “We were notified in writing by the board secretary after the meeting that the application (for a retail license) was approved and they also had it on their website as approved. Now a set of minutes are circulating saying that it was denied. My lawyers are looking at it and trying to figure out what the conflict is.”