Peanuts convenience store at Red Bay gas station has been issued a license to sell alcohol on Sundays with one significant catch – it expired on Saturday.
New liquor board chairman Noel Williams confirmed Friday that he had signed the retail license following the release of an internal audit report confirming the previous board had approved the application in March.
The audit found that the board later attempted to reverse that decision and altered official records, but ruled that the original decision stood.
Mr. Williams said the finding meant he was compelled by law to issue the license.
However, all liquor licenses, including Peanuts’, expired at the end of September and the board will have to decide whether to renew the permission.
Mr. Williams said the renewal application would likely be deferred for advice from legal counsel and for policy direction from Cabinet. In the interim period, it is understood that business owner Gary Rutty will be able to sell alcohol to customers on Sundays.
The board is also facing a new application from Tortuga Rum business owner Robert Hamaty for a similar “retail license” to open his liquor stores on Sundays.
Mr. Hamaty said, “If the board is going to be granting retail licenses to gas stations, we want to be able to operate in the same manner as Rubis and Esso.”
He is seeking variations of existing licenses at seven locations to open until 2 a.m. and to serve liquor on Sundays.
Speaking to the Cayman Compass after the meeting, Mr. Hamaty said he did not support Sunday sales or the granting of liquor licenses to gas stations and convenience stores. He believes retail licenses should not be applied to stores and should be reserved for bars
He added, “I don’t want this, but if they are going to do it, then I am going to open on Sunday and I am going to open until 2 a.m. during the week.”
Mr. Williams and deputy chair Lynn Bodden both told the Compass they believed the law was still unclear on how retail licenses, which allow for Sunday liquor sales in certain quantities and have typically been used for bars, should be applied to convenience stores and gas stations.
Ms. Bodden added, “My view is the law is not clear and we will have to seek legal advice.”
At the opening of Friday’s meeting, Mr. Williams, who was not present at the March meeting when Peanuts’ original application was considered and says he abstained from any involvement in internal board discussions on that matter, said it would be a new slate with a new board.
He said he did not have any issues with members of the old board, who were involved in the Peanuts matter, remaining in their roles.
“For the last couple of weeks, this board has been under a lot of scrutiny in the press,” he said. “I want to publicly say I am comfortable with my current board. We will do everything in our power under the law to deal with everyone equally and fairly.
“What happened in the past is in the past. This is a new board and we are making every effort to do the right thing.”
Ms. Bodden, who is a lawyer, said she could not personally give legal advice to the board and they would seek outside counsel to make sure their decisions were in keeping with the law.
Mitchell Welds, the former chairman, who appeared before the board on Friday as a representative of an applicant seeking a liquor license for luxury boat charters, offered his support for the board.
“If I can be of any assistance, please reach out to me,” he told members.
He said his lengthy tenure as board chair was down to the fact that “I did the right thing and I followed the law. Once you follow the law, you can’t go wrong.”
In a separate development Friday, McRuss grocery store submitted an application for a package liquor license, which would enable it to sell alcohol at its new George Town location from Monday to Saturday.
It is understood that the lifting of a moratorium on gas stations seeking liquor licenses also applies to convenience stores.
Charles Russell of McRuss told the board the new venue was a 24-hour grocery store, but would sell alcohol in a separate section during permitted hours, that could be closed off to shoppers outside the times stipulated by the license.