‘Those who would banish song and dance from the kingdom should forever be banished themselves.”
Unless Cayman Islands officials act swiftly, this New Year’s Eve won’t just end on a sour note – it will end with no notes at all, thanks to government’s negligence and an archaic law that prohibits public music or dancing on Sunday (upon which, this year, Dec. 31 happens to fall).
So hold off on the traditional chorus of “Auld Lang Syne,” at least until 12:01 a.m. Jan. 1, because transgressing Cayman’s Music and Dancing Law could draw a $500 fine or up to a month in prison. That’s no way for Cayman’s honest purveyors of good cheer to start the New Year.
(In the recent weeks, this newspaper has run headlines proclaiming no caviar, no Christmas trees, no local lobster and now no music or dancing … Happy holidays, Cayman ….)
After the Compass “broke the news” about the upcoming “silent night” on New Year’s Eve, restaurants, clubs and bar managers scrambled to change their plans – on what usually is one of their busiest (and most lucrative) events on the calendar.
Establishments are scrapping cover charges, offering refunds on pre-sold tickets, postponing music until after midnight, or, in at least one case, electing to shut down early rather than trying to work around government’s foolish ban. Major hotels in Cayman, also affected by the no-music, no-dancing policy, appear to be scrambling for solutions. Nearly all have advertised for and planned major events with live entertainment (See story on Page One).
The Music and Dancing Law itself, government’s failure to carve out an exemption for New Year’s, and the lack of adequate public notification make Cayman look parochial and our leaders appear to be incompetent or incapable of managing a first-world jurisdiction.
Some readers have suggested that the government issue an order instructing police not to enforce this law. That’s a “solution” we can’t endorse. Yes, the Music and Dancing Law is an ill-conceived law that victimizes the tourism sector, one of Cayman’s two economic pillars. But it’s still the law, and it must be respected. No law should ever simply be “winked at.”
This isn’t the first time the Music and Dancing Law has interfered with New Year’s festivities. It also happened in 2006. Cabinet wasn’t able to address the pre-midnight music issue, but instead allowed establishments to stay open later into the night. After 11 years in which they could have addressed the issue, it appears that government is contemplating giving businesses the same “consolation prize” this year.
Not only does allowing extended hours not address the music and dancing problem, the rationale that prohibiting festivities before midnight can be made up for by letting people drink (and, unfortunately, drive) practically until dawn makes no logical sense.
Here’s a better idea for lawmakers: Fix this problem, NOW.
Premier Alden McLaughlin, no doubt, is correct when he says neither the Liquor Licensing Board nor Cabinet have any discretion under the law.
So what? If this is what it takes, convene the Legislative Assembly for an emergency session, suspend all relevant procedures and rules, amend the Music and Dancing Law and hand-carry the new legislation over to Governor Helen Kilpatrick to be signed and enacted immediately.
We have thousands of visitors on island and tens of thousands of residents expecting to ring in the New Year with song and dance and traditional good cheer. Although it is preposterous that a supposedly world-class travel destination would, in effect, “close down” on New Year’s Eve, it is even more concerning that our elected leaders appear incapable of remedying a situation that government itself created and, through its own oversight, neglected to correct.
If officials need to work from now through Christmas Eve to ensure that Cayman can properly celebrate New Year’s Eve, then that is what they must do. If the process requires a special issue of the government’s Gazette, we happen to have a printing press and will happily make it available to our legislators.
It’s not too late. The “powers that be” can, and should, exercise their “powers that be” to mend this broken law before New Year’s Eve, so that champagne corks in Cayman can properly pop.