Liquor board: Two sets of minutes, two different stories

During its controversial March meeting, the Liquor Licensing Board of Grand Cayman granted an application from a gas station to sell alcohol on Sundays and, further, agreed that all gas stations that applied could obtain similar permission, according to an original set of minutes obtained by the Cayman Compass.

The final published minutes (which were released later and differ significantly from the original minutes) suggest the application from Peanuts store at Red Bay Gas Station was rejected.

Included in the original draft minutes of the board’s deliberations on March 28 is an account of a wider discussion on Sunday liquor sales, following Peanuts’ application – a first of its kind in Grand Cayman. The draft minutes suggest that not only was the license granted, the board formulated a policy that would allow any gas station that sought a retail license to open on Sundays.

The minutes, in note form, indicate:

  • Board agreed that gas stations will have to apply for a retail license in order to sell on Sundays
  • Board agreed that liquor stores will have to apply for a retail license in order to sell liquor on Sundays
  • Board agreed that permitted hours for a retail license at all gas stations and liquor stores will be 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays. Christmas Days and Good Fridays are non-permitted days

There were six applications before the board to consider sale of alcohol on Sundays and it was expected this would increase at each meeting.

Those minutes, which also indicate that the Peanuts application was approved, were never publicly released.

Board secretary Marva Scott did send out a list of decisions, similarly indicating the approval for Peanuts to sell liquor on Sundays. The business was also listed as having both a retail and package license in the Department of Commerce and Investment’s official list of license holders for the next three months.

Acting liquor board chairman Woody DaCosta has since said that was an error.

He attributed this to an “untimely and unauthorized release” by a member of Department of Commerce and Investment staff. He claimed the decision had been postponed and later rejected following a separate meeting later in the quarter. He later clarified that this was an “electronic meeting.”

The final published minutes, which appeared on the DCI website in June, make no reference to any electronic meeting or any extension of the meeting beyond March 28.

The references to the board’s discussion on Sunday opening for gas stations are not included in those minutes.

The published minutes include new bullet points, not in the original draft, which refer to a discussion and agreement on a new policy that would mean all businesses will be restricted to one type of liquor license per premises. They also indicate that Peanuts’ application was rejected, partly on the basis of this new policy.

Mr. DaCosta has acknowledged that this discussion and decision did not take place on March 28, as the minutes indicate, but at the later “electronic meeting.”

The original copy of the minutes, understood to have been drafted in April and circulated within DCI and to board members, also contains more detail on the board’s deliberations over the Peanuts application. They state, “Board member Wayne Kirkconnell abstained from this application. He made significant contributions asking the board to consider they were clear on the decision being taken on allowing sale of alcohol on Sundays.”

Following advice that permission had been granted, Peanuts began selling alcohol on Sundays in April. The business ceased sales when the minutes were published in June, indicating that it had not, in fact, been granted a license for Sunday sales.

Government has ordered an independent inquiry into the matter, to be carried out by the Internal Audit Unit.

The Cayman Compass has  contacted Mr. DaCosta and every member of the Liquor Licensing Board with a number of questions, including when this electronic meeting took place; who attended; who was notified that the meeting was taking place or of its findings; and why there was no mention of it in the official minutes. The paper has yet to receive a response.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Anyone hoping that a change in the chairmanship of the LLB would lead to a more transparent and honest approach in its dealings with liquor license applications will have been sorely disappointed; this case is a perfect example.

    The LLB has been operating this way for years; one rule for some, another rule for others.

    I’ve had dealings with this board and its former chairman and secretary in the past on a number of occasions and though not directly involved in the sale of alcohol, have had first-hand experience how they work.

    It is a move in the right direction that the Govt. Ministry involved has ordered an investigation and audit.

    Hopefully, it will be completed and the results published and not fall through the cracks of the system as so many others have.

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