No dancing or music allowed in Cayman on New Year’s Eve

40-year-old law limits New Year’s Eve entertainment

This New Year’s Eve falls on a Sunday, triggering 40-year-old legislation that prohibits dancing and music on that day of the week.

As a result, dozens of restaurants and bars are nixing their usual New Year’s Eve parties, forgoing what’s usually one of their most profitable business days in the process.

According to the Music and Dancing (Control) Law, premises that sell food or refreshments are not allowed to permit dancing or the playing of music during Good Fridays, Christmas, and Sundays. Cinemas, town halls and hotels that are not open to the general public are exempt from the prohibition.

“I’m afraid, by law, music and dancing are prohibited on Sunday,” Premier Alden McLaughlin confirmed when contacted by the Compass. “Neither the Liquor Licensing Board nor Cabinet have any discretion in the matter.”

Liquor Licensing Board Chairman Noel Williams said that on Jan. 1 at 12:01 a.m., music and dancing will again be permitted. To make up for the New Year’s Eve ban, the liquor board will likely extend the hours establishments can stay open until “3 or 4 a.m.,” he said. Mr. Williams said the Liquor Licensing Board will soon make an announcement on the issue.

But extending the party hours into early Monday morning will not make up for the businesses that cater to the “mature” crowd that likes to go home after the ball drops, said Markus Mueri, who owns Deckers Bar, KARoo Cayman and Abacus at Camana Bay.

“The board [may grant] a blanket extension for everybody until 4 a.m., but by that time we have only youngsters out and about,” he said. “Let us old-timers celebrate in style in the lead-up to midnight with a good dance and a smile, watch the fireworks, have a glass of bubbles, and be tucked into bed by 1 a.m.”

Royal Palms general manager Don Loyd said his establishment usually has a VIP area, a general admission area around the beach bar and a private party by the pool – with all three spots featuring DJs and dancing.

Mr. Loyd will have to forego the entertainment this year, and he said he expects Royal Palms to only take in about a third of the revenue that it would on a typical New Year’s Eve as a result.

Resident Tenisha Bodden said that she and her friends usually go to Royal Palms or a similar place for New Year’s Eve, but are considering renting a condo on the beach this year, instead. Without live music and dancing, it makes little sense to pay for an admission ticket to a bar, she said.

Cayman Cabana owner Luigi Moxam said that he had hoped for the best but prepared for the worst in terms of the Sunday dance and music ban. Accordingly, he did not hire out any live entertainment, and plans on closing his restaurant shortly after midnight to let his staff enjoy the rest of the holiday.

“It’s unfortunate that they’re playing politics because it affects business. If everyone is to be honest, they would all agree that there has to be some common sense denominator to make things work,” he said. “Who wants to come to Cayman when you can’t dance until midnight?”

Not all businesses may be aware of the policy, which government has yet to publicly articulate. When this reporter contacted Luciano De Riso, head of operations at The Wharf, his restaurant had “DJ Ralph” advertised on its website to play music from 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.

But after notifying Mr. De Riso of government’s policy, he said DJ Ralph and accompanying fireworks would have to wait until after midnight.

“In cases like this, we’ll have to go ahead and play background music until after midnight,” he said, adding, “It’s another disappointing thing that I’m finding out about the law from the Compass.”

Mr. De Riso said the aspect of the ban he dislikes most is that it does not apply to hotels. The law states that exempted premises include “areas in hotels which are not open to the general public and with respect to which no charge is made for admission.”

Mr. De Riso added that the ban also hurts local entertainers, who would otherwise be able to use the event to earn extra cash and name recognition.

For establishments that may still be unaware of the ban – or those that may choose to ignore it – the Compass enquired with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service as to whether it intends to enforce the prohibition on music and dancing.

“It is not up to us to comment on the decision itself,” responded police information officer Jacqueline Carpenter, adding, “Our duties are to enforce what the laws are and ensure that we have in place the appropriate resources and plans to ensure public safety.”

The RCIPS has enforced the ban in the past, according to Compass archives.

When New Year’s Eve was on a Saturday in 2005, police reportedly showed up at The Wharf around 11:45 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 30, to make sure that the premises were vacated before Sunday struck. Former Wharf owner Clemens Guettler said at the time that his business was down more than 50 percent from a typical New Year’s Eve.

The last time New Year’s Eve fell on a Sunday was 2006. That year, government announced in October that music and dancing would not be allowed until 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1. A Compass article noted that government announced its decision in October “to give the business community ample time to make their holiday plans.”

“The Cabinet has recently considered the matter and has decided on what it believes is a sensible approach, which honors religious and cultural norms while balancing the importance of New Year’s Eve activities for those residents and visitors who wish to celebrate at licensed establishments,” then-Cabinet Minister Charles Clifford said at the time.

When New Year’s Eve was again set for a Saturday, several years later in 2011, lawmakers scrambled weeks before to amend the law to allow for businesses to stay open into Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012.

A proposed amendment to the Music and Dancing (Control) Law would have allowed the liquor board to “grant permission for dancing and the playing of music, on or in [liquor] licensed premises outside of permitted hours on any given day.”

Government ended up partially liberalizing the Music and Dancing (Control) Law, but only to give the liquor board the power to allow music and dancing “when New Year’s Eve falls on a Saturday” – not a Sunday.

The Liquor Licensing Board exercised its new authority that year, permitting restaurants and hotels to play music until 2 a.m. on the Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012, and for nightclubs to have music and dancing until 3 a.m. on that day.

New Year’s Eve also fell on a Saturday last year, and the liquor board essentially treated that day as a Friday night, extending operating hours for bars and restaurants to 2 a.m., and to 4 a.m. for nightclubs.

The next time New Year’s Eve will fall on a Sunday is in 2023.

10 COMMENTS

  1. My following comments are not intended to debate the justification or not of the Sunday ban on live music and dancing. But I’d like to call attention to the hypocrisy and double standard which exists on that issue. Just a few Sundays ago I was driving past a West Bay Road restaurant which has outdoor seating and was surprised to see and hear a duo of musicians performing on their outdoor area. In addition to that, on another occasion I was at a different SMB establishment which proudly displayed their week of activities which included “live music” advertised for “Sunday”.

    In both cases I was left with the impression that the proprietors of these establishments were not knowingly breaking the Law (both establishments are relatively new). I got the feeling that they were simply delivering on their “business model” and it was entirely likely that they didn’t even know that live music on Sunday is illegal.

    However the real point is, where is the enforcement? I doubt very much that I was the only one who was aware of these two situations – certainly there were patrons enjoying the band at the first location! There are so many laws on our books and so little enforcement of many of them, rendering them ineffective and pointless in some cases.

    In this case, who knows, perhaps the proprietors were aware but just boldly challenging the system, knowing enforcement is weak – especially on a Sunday!

  2. Those who are religious have the right to do anytime they want on any day they like.
    Provided it does not infringe on the rights of others to do as they want.

    Time to take this law off the statute books.

    In the meantime order that this rule will not be enforced this coming NYE

    This holiday season Cayman is benefiting for many more tourists who would otherwise have gone to our competitors, where they would of course expect to dance at NYE parties. Let’s try to ensure they want to come back here next year

  3. How does this make any sense ? This same Premier has promoted and developed the Island as modern Islands . but can’t have music and dancing on this one New Year’s Eve that falls on sunday . CONTROL and POWER is all I can see that this decision was based on watch that power and control . In the past this same thing happened that New Year’s Eve fell on Sunday, but that then Government made special exceptions for the business and the People to enjoy the traditional way of life .

    I think that it would’ve had made more sense for the Premier to have taken this time and spoke out about the incident that just happened on Boggy Sand , where a person needed EMERGENCY help but the PUBLIC BEACH ACCESS were blocked .

  4. How do the local Musicians feel about this? The ones lucky enough to get gigs in the Hotels will be fine, but almost every bar/restaurant from East End to West Bay would typically have a New Years party, put on a special menu, get some fireworks and balloons, and hire a DJ or a few musicians.

    If a place has a party, more staff are required, more food to be purchased and delivered, party shops sell hats and noisemakers.

    The staff make a bit more money as the bills are a bit higher, so are the tips, so more gets spent the following week in the shops and other restaurants, maybe the boss makes enough to hire some contractors to do some work he was putting off…

    Will the taxi drivers be out or decide to stay home because the early parties are not happening, will there be enough taxis at 4:00am to get folks that did come out at midnight home safe.

    Believe me. People will be dancing New Years Eve if that is what they want to do. It is unfortunate many businesses and staff will not be able to take part and profit in what is typically the busiest day of the year for a restaurant.

    • And you know what the catch is – the legislation itself provides music played on a Sunday (and other prohibited days) must be “pre-recorded music of a soft, background nature” – I don’t know how semi-abiding by a law makes any sense, because of course that will not be the case New Years’ Eve – might as well full on disregard it completely if we are going to beat around the bush here! 😉

  5. I realize that there are religious people on the island but certainly not a majority. This could be one of the all time stupid laws. They are going to allow music at 1201 AM. Who cares at that point, Most of us old people will go to sleep after the fireworks. I do hope that the Camana Bau fireworks at 7PM will happen or all the young ones will be disappointed and many of us old ones too When is this island going to move into the 21st century

  6. Oh dear, 10 days to go and the good people of Cayman are expending more energy on this than the fact cayman needs a food bank!

    The law has been around for 40 years, was discussed in 2007 and was subject of attempts to amend in 2012 and now, with 10 days to go before the inevitable happened (any fool could see that New Years Eve would fall on a Sunday SOMETIME!) and everyone is in a spin.

    Will the state prosecute EVERYONE who dances or sings on that day? Out will they, more likely, ignore it and quietly change the law in the next session?

    Get over yourselves

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