Liquor Board delays license decisions

Level playing field requested by applicants

No decisions have yet been made on pending liquor license applications that would allow retail stores to sell beer, wine and spirits on Sundays, as the licensing board awaits a hoped-for change in the law.

“We’ve sent a letter to the government to request that the law be changed quickly,” said Deputy Chairwoman Lynn Bodden when the board met Friday.

She was responding to complaints from Robert Hamaty, of the Tortuga Rum Company.

Mr. Hamaty was arguing against not only a change in the law, but the exploitation of what he called a mistake that has allowed some retailers to sell packaged alcohol on Sundays, which has traditionally been prohibited.

In March, the previous licensing board approved a retail license – normally only issued to bars and restaurants, which are allowed to serve liquor on Sundays – to Peanuts convenience store in Red Bay. That board then attempted to rescind that license by changing the minutes of its meeting. An audit later revealed that change, and in September, Peanuts was granted the license.

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Since then, Mr. Hamaty and other package retailers have applied for similar licenses. Their argument is that Peanuts has an unfair advantage and the rules should be uniform. “The law is clear,” Mr. Hamaty said. “And to be quite honest, the board is not following the law.

“I’m arguing against myself. I don’t want to sell on Sunday and I don’t want to open a bar. I’m here only because I’m looking for a level playing field.”

Board Chairman Noel Williams said he understood Mr. Hamaty’s frustration. The board, he said, is struggling with trying to fix a problem it did not create.

“We’re aware of the position we’ve been put in and we’re going to address it,” Mr. Williams said. “A mistake happened. We have to bring it all together and be fair to everyone. We’re going to do what is within the law. Just give us some time.”

“How can you refuse a license to me and [Johnny Brown] and Jason Brown, when Peanuts keeps selling?” he said. “The liquor license has become a joke.”

Johnny Brown has applied for a license allowing him to sell packaged liquor by the case on Sundays at his Esso service stations in Red Bay and George Town. Jason Brown has asked for a similar license for the Esso station in West Bay.

Mr. Williams said he and other board members hope to be able to make decisions on the applications soon.

“Moving forward,” he said, “we’re trying to make sure we’re following the law.”

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