When tourists first arrive in the Cayman Islands, the uppermost thought in many of their minds is: “Where and when can I drink? Where and when can I dance?”

The answer ought to be simple.

In Cayman, however, it’s often anything but – as demonstrated by the confusion surrounding liquor permits for the Peanuts convenience store in Red Bay.

For the record, and “on the record,” the Cayman Compass is not taking any position on whether the Liquor Licensing Board should, or should not, grant Peanuts a “retail license” that would allow the store (attached to the Red Bay Rubis gas station) to sell alcohol on Sundays.

Peanuts already has a separate “package license,” enabling it to sell alcohol Monday through Saturday.

What troubles us – and also, apparently, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson and Minister of Commerce Joey Hew – is the manner in which the liquor board has handled (mishandled?) Peanuts’ application for the retail license.

On Wednesday, Messrs. Manderson and Hew issued a joint statement announcing they were ordering government’s Internal Audit Unit to investigate the liquor board’s actions in regard to this application.

As simply as we can describe it, here is what is causing all of the current uproar:

At its quarterly meeting in March (held on March 24 and extended to a follow-up session on March 28), the liquor board considered Peanuts’ application for the retail license.

  • On March 29, board secretary Marva Scott sent written notification to the media, to Peanuts’ attorneys and to the Department of Commerce and Investment (DCI) that Peanuts’ retail license had been granted.
  • On March 31, the Compass published a Page One story on the approval. Other media published similar stories as well.
  • More importantly, for the following three months (April, May and June), the website of the liquor board’s “parent department,” the DCI, confirmed that Peanuts had been granted the retail license on March 28.
  • With no indication from anyone that anything was amiss, Peanuts began openly to sell alcohol on Sundays.
  • In late June, the board reconvened for its next regular quarterly meeting and approved the minutes from the March meeting, indicating that Peanuts’ retail license application had, in fact, been “denied.”

In August, the board’s Acting Chairman Woody DaCosta told a Compass editor the board had never approved Peanuts’ retail license application, that the initial notifications were erroneous, and – pay attention – in mid-June the board had held an “electronic meeting” (which he called a continuance of the March session) and voted to deny Peanuts’ application.

Nowhere, in either the “draft” or “official” minutes is there any reference to any “electronic meeting” in June. In recent days, Mr. DaCosta has not responded to multiple inquiries from the Compass on these matters.

Wading into the ensuing frenzy of confusion and consternation, Deputy Governor Manderson and Minister Hew did the proper thing: They summoned the auditors to investigate.

If we may assist: The first item on the auditors’ agenda should be to establish the facts surrounding the “electronic meeting” at which the board supposedly made the decision to turn down Peanuts’ application. Remember, there is no public record that there ever was such a meeting (which Mr. DaCosta told the Compass took place in “mid-June.”)

Further, why do the “official” minutes say the Peanuts decision was made on March 28 – not in mid-June? Why do the minutes indicate the session “ended” on March 28? Where are the records from the June “electronic meeting?” When, exactly, did it take place? What was the format? (Conference call? Skype session? GoToMeeting video conference?) Who participated? What did they discuss?

In their search for answers, auditors need not delve into file cabinets or sift through emails; first, they can simply pose questions to the nine members of the Liquor Licensing Board, who in addition to Mr. DaCosta, are:

  • Noel Williams
  • Magalyn Robinson-Clarke
  • Ralph Lewis
  • Phillip Tatum
  • Wayne Kirkconnell
  • Ryan Rajkumarsingh (Director of Commerce and Investment)
  • Haroon Pandohie (Director of Planning)
  • Roydell Carter (Director of Environmental Health)
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