Whodunit?

Fans of Sherlock Holmes mysteries will surely be intrigued by the following sequence of events.

But first, let us introduce you to the cast of characters:

Peanuts. Not an actual person but the name of a convenience store at the Rubis gas station in Red Bay.

Gary Rutty. Well-known Cayman businessman and proprietor of Peanuts.

Woodward (“Woody”) DaCosta. Acting chairman of the Liquor Licensing Board, Grand Cayman. Mr. DaCosta’s “day job” is host of a local call-in radio show.

Marva Scott-Dunbar. Longtime recording secretary of the Liquor Licensing Board, which operates under the auspices of the Department of Commerce and Investment (DCI).

An assortment of lesser players. Board members, politicians, attorneys, etc.

Our drama begins in December 2016, when the Liquor Licensing Board granted Mr. Rutty a “package license” to sell alcohol at Peanuts Monday through Saturday but, importantly, not on Sundays. The license was granted despite strong objections from liquor store owners, most vocally Robert Hamaty of Tortuga Rum Company. Mr. Hamaty, who had asked the attorney general to clarify the legality of granting liquor licenses to gas stations, had called Cayman’s liquor law “a joke.”

A few months later, at its late-March quarterly meeting, the Liquor Licensing Board considered another application from Mr. Rutty, this one to make possible the sale of alcohol at Peanuts on Sundays. (The Liquor Board retains ultimate discretionary power regarding Sunday sales of alcohol, regardless of the issuance of a “retail license.”)

Following its March 28 meeting, recording secretary Marva Scott-Dunbar sent notifications to the Compass, other media, the DCI and to Gary Rutty, through his attorney Cline Glidden, that Peanuts’ application for a retail license had been approved.

For the next months, things went smoothly at Peanuts. Sales were brisk, and customers seemed especially pleased with the convenience of being able to purchase alcohol on Sundays.

However, Acting Chairman DaCosta, while not taking issue with the above, tells the story differently.

He said the board did NOT approve the retail license for Peanuts at its March 28 meeting. Consideration of the application, he emphasized, was “continued,” and the licensing session was not concluded but adjourned to reconvene at a future date.

Mr. DaCosta told the Compass the announcement of the board’s granting the retail license was sent in error by the recording secretary to the media, the DCI and participating parties.

Further, Mr. DaCosta explained that the March 28 did indeed reconvene in mid-June when board members participated in an “electronic meeting,” allowable by law. In effect, this was not a “new unscheduled meeting” but a continuation of the March 28 session.

In any event, it was at this “electronic meeting,” Mr. DaCosta said, that the decision was reached “by consensus” of board members to turn down the retail license application for Peanuts.

Mr. DaCosta was less clear, at least to our understanding, why either he or his board did not correct immediately the widely disseminated announcement that Peanuts had been granted the retail license. In fact, and apparently without objection from the board, Peanuts began selling alcohol on Sundays at its Red Bay outlet. Likewise, the DCI website for April, May and June continued to list Peanuts as holding two licenses from the Liquor Board – a package license granted in March 2016 and a retail license granted in March 2017.

For many years, whenever the Compass required timely and accurate information regarding the workings and decisions of the Liquor Board, we have relied on the knowledge and professionalism of its secretary, Marva Scott-Dunbar. During her career, Ms. Scott-Dunbar has been a consummate civil servant for at least 30 years.

We, and we presume the public, would welcome the opportunity to hear Ms. Scott-Dunbar’s voice on all of these matters. Unfortunately, when we reached out to her, we learned that she had been removed from her 10 year-plus tenure with the Liquor Licensing Board.

Apparently the DCI has transferred Ms. Scott-Dunbar to another department.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. This is another example of how regulation has become so overbearing and convoluted that the government itself has little clue what is going on and cannot operate in a consistent and timely manner.

    Bigger picture monopolies are never good for the people. Liquor stores, supermarkets, and gas stations should all be able to cross sell no different than what happens in other business lines and products and in other countries. Competition, flexibility and choices are good for the people.

    This is a great opportunity to modernize by allowing well run operations to be more flexible in what they offer to the people. By not allowing gas stations to sell, on any day of the week, is not saving anyone from anything.

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