Businesses will be limited to only one type of liquor license per premises under a new policy, restricting the options for gas stations and liquor or convenience stores seeking to sell alcohol on Sundays.
The Liquor Licensing Board of Grand Cayman has given businesses with multiple licenses until September to pick which license they want to keep.
The new policy follows an application from Peanuts convenience store at the Red Bay Rubis gas station to add a “retail license” – which would have allowed it to sell alcohol on Sundays – to its “package license” – which allowed it to sell liquor only during the week.
Following that application at its March meeting, the liquor board sent out a list of decisions indicating that the application had been approved.
It later published minutes of the meeting, which indicated it had been rejected on the basis of the new “one premises, one license” policy.
Woody DaCosta, acting chairman of the board, has claimed that the initial decision to grant the license was sent out in error.
He claimed that the minutes from the March meeting, published in June, accurately reflect the board’s decision to formulate a new policy and reject Peanuts’ application. He acknowledged that this discussion and decision had not taken place in March, as the published minutes suggest, and attributed this to another administrative error.
It is not clear when the additional meeting took place, but the result is a policy that will restrict businesses to one license only.
That means liquor stores and gas stations are less likely to be granted retail licenses, which are typically designed for bars and nightclubs, to sell alcohol on Sundays.
Attorney Cline Glidden, who represented Peanuts and several other gas stations in applications to the liquor board, had indicated in March that he would be bringing applications on behalf of other gas stations seeking retail licenses to open Sundays. The new policy prevents them from doing so, without first giving up their package licenses, which allow them to sell alcohol during the week without restrictions on quantities.
Mr. DaCosta, in an emailed response to questions from the Cayman Compass, said the board had reconvened sometime between March and June to consider a number of matters, including a review of existing licenses, in light of the new 2016 Liquor Licensing Law.
“All current licence holders with multiple licences will need to decide which one of the eight licensing categories best represents their venture at the forthcoming Annual Licensing Session scheduled for September 2017,” he wrote.
He suggested that gas stations could apply for retail licenses instead of their package licenses, though this type of license allows only for beer in quantities “of not less than 6.82 litres” to be taken off the premises.
“This Board holds that nothing in the 2016 Liquor Law precludes a Gas Station that features a convenience store from applying for a retail licence to be able to sell intoxicating liquor seven day per week as its sole liquor licence,” he said.
Cayman Distributors is one of several companies that currently carries multiple different types of liquor licenses at its various premises.
This includes a distributors license and a package license for its main depot on Eastern Avenue, which operates both as a distribution center and a cash-and-carry-style liquor store; and both a retail and package license for the Cayman Islands Yacht Club, which features a bar and a convenience store that sells alcohol seven days a week.
Matthew Bishop, CEO of Cayman Distributors, said he was not sure yet how the changes would impact its businesses.
“We look forward to opening a dialogue with the board over the future direction of how liquor licenses will be dealt with and would welcome an opportunity to discuss these issues in more detail,” he said.
Robert Hamaty, who owns Tortuga Rum Company, said he was happy with the one license, one premises rule, and said businesses were essentially exploiting a loophole in the law to try to sell on Sundays.
But he said he believed the board had granted Peanuts a license, as the initial correspondence suggested.
“It should never have happened in the first place,” he said, “but they should never have turned around and said it was not granted. Admit your mistake, say you should never have done it and then repair it at the next session. They need to come clean.”
Mr. Hamaty does not support Sunday liquor sales in general and said the new policy would actually do nothing to stop Sunday “carry out” sales from bars.
The law allows for bars with retail licenses to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises providing it is “not less than 6.82 liters” of beer – equivalent to a 24-pack of bottled beer – or 0.75 liters of wine or spirits.
He said this was already being used by some bars to sell alcohol to take away on Sundays – essentially allowing them to operate as a liquor store as well as a bar, while the regular liquor stores were closed.