More gas stations seek Sunday liquor sales

A decision on whether gas stations and liquor stores should be allowed retail licenses to sell alcohol on Sundays has been deferred pending legal advice.

Tortuga Rum Company applied in September to open its liquor stores on Sundays, while Peanuts Convenience Store at Red Bay gas station has also requested a renewal of its retail license, which entitles it to sell alcohol on Sundays.

Brown’s Esso has submitted similar applications for Sunday sales at its locations in Industrial Park and Red Bay, which are scheduled to be considered at the Liquor Licensing Board’s next meeting on Dec. 1.

Board chairman Noel Williams confirmed Friday that the applications from Peanuts and Tortuga were still under review.

“We have deferred those decisions because we wanted further clarification on the meaning of the law,” he said. “We have further information from the attorney general and we are reviewing the entire circumstances prior to making a final decision. We want to be fair but we have to ensure we are in compliance with the laws.

“We have to ensure we make the right decision and take all the necessary advice and, if it takes another couple of weeks to get the clarification we need, then we will take that time.”

Peanuts was issued a license to sell alcohol on Sundays following the release of a government internal audit report in September, which ruled that the previous board had granted the license 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. The finding meant the board was compelled by law to issue the license to Peanuts in September.

However, all liquor licenses expired at the end of that month and the board, under new leadership following the controversy surrounding the handling of that application, is considering the matter afresh. The store is allowed to sell under the terms of the old license until a decision is made on renewal.

It is also considering an application from Robert Hamaty, of the Tortuga Rum Company, for a similar retail license to open his liquor stores on Sundays.

Mr. Hamaty said, “The decision was deferred. To be honest, I don’t want to open Sundays but if they are going to do it, then we will have to as well. It has to be a level playing field.”

Typically, liquor stores have been granted package licenses, which restrict opening to Monday through Saturday, and bars have been granted retail licenses, which allow for Sunday opening. Peanuts, which already had a package license, changed that dynamic when it was granted a retail license as well.

Mr. Williams, who was not involved in that decision, said the new board had to make sure that it was correct, according to the law.

Commerce Minister Joey Hew told the Cayman Compass that the law was being reviewed, but said he could not comment on the details until that review was complete.

Mr. Hamaty also took issue with the fact that the decisions from the September meeting had yet to be publicly released.

Previously, the board has published its decisions by emailing media houses and posting them on its website. But at press time Sunday, no decisions from the September meeting had been posted on the website.

Mr. Williams confirmed decisions to the Compass when asked and said he would try to ensure the written decisions were forwarded to the paper, though that had not happened by Sunday afternoon.

Mr. Hamaty said, “It is required in the law that they publish the decisions. We are 15 days away from the December meeting and they haven’t told the public what happened in the September meeting.”

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