Clubs, bars and restaurants in Grand Cayman shrugged off the controversy over the island’s New Year’s Eve live music ban and insisted, “The show must go on.”
Some venues have been forced to cancel DJs or live bands after realizing there would be no exemption to the usual Sunday restrictions under the Music and Dancing (Control) Law.
Last-ditch efforts to change the law to allow for New Year’s Eve entertainment proved futile, with government insisting nothing could be done at this late stage.
Now, venues are trying to make the best of the situation and make December 31 a night to remember, despite the restrictions.
At Calico Jack’s on Seven Mile Beach, Handel Whittaker is confident the controversy will not dampen the mood.
“I don’t think it is going to have an impact. New Year’s Eve, young and old will come out and have a good time, regardless.
“We will have background music up to midnight and then 12:01 a.m. is when the real stuff gets started with the DJ.”
Luciano De Riso, manager of the Wharf and Grand Old House, said the venues were taking a similar approach.
“It was a big disappointment when we realized that there wasn’t going to be any amendment to the law, but we slightly modified our plans and [are] still going to have a great party for our guests,” he said. “This way, we make everyone happy.” He said both restaurants would be serving dinner all night, with background music, before a fireworks display at midnight at Grand Old House, with DJ RKM starting the party after that.
He added, “The law needs to be respected; it means that we just party later in the night this year.”
Markus Mueri, owner of Deckers Bar, KARoo Cayman and Abacus at Camana Bay, was one of the first business owners to raise concerns over the New Year’s Eve Sunday regulations.
He said he had hoped they would be changed but accepted that would not be the case.
“New Year’s Eve shall be celebrated with friends and family,” he said. “Instead of dancing the night away, let’s celebrate in style and call a friend and go for dinner. After dinner, either gather on the beach or head to Camana Bay and enjoy spectacular fireworks. Time to close out 2017, reflect on the positives and learn from the mishaps, and create change for 2018.”
Camana Bay has found a creative way to get round the ban – promoting a weekend-long celebration, including a “New Year’s Eve Eve” event featuring eight-piece, R&B funk band The Mellotones on Saturday night and two fireworks displays at 7 p.m. and midnight to see in the New Year on Sunday.
Businessman Matthew Leslie has organized the “Carnival Queens” New Year’s Eve event at the Winter Carnival, currently stationed near Cost-U-Less.
He said guests could go on the rides and have fun before midnight and enjoy the show featuring top soca stars Destra and Patrice Roberts from 12:01 a.m.
The New Year celebrations and countdown will be hosted by Caymanian model Selita Ebanks.
“It is going to be good times for us. We are set,” Mr. Leslie said. He does believe the law needs to be looked at, however.
“I think it should be reviewed, but we had plenty of time since the last time this came up. In the business community, we dropped the ball on lobbying for changes. We can’t expect the government to do it last minute.”
One event that will start and finish before midnight is the family oriented gospel music show at the Lions Centre.
Organizer Noel Williams, who is also the chairman of the Liquor Licensing Board, said he was seeking advice from the attorney general to confirm that the event, which features two live singers, could still go ahead.
“We didn’t think it was an issue as gospel events have always taken place on a Sunday,” he said. “There is no alcohol license involved. There are multiple churches involved; we are giving away hundreds of tickets to the elderly; and proceeds from the sale of tickets are in aid of the new food bank.”
He said the event featured two well known Christian singers, Russ Taff and Michael English, but no backing band or other entertainment.
“It is more of a praise and worship event. They give their testimony and sing in between.”
The event, from 7:30 p.m. until 10:30 p.m., is part of a wider effort to encourage gospel tourism events in Cayman.
The Music and Dance (Control) Law does not appear to include any specific wording exempting gospel or religious-style performances from the ban on live music on Sundays. Premier Alden McLaughlin has previously stated that neither Cabinet nor the Liquor Licensing Board has discretion to offer exemptions to bars and restaurants for Sunday performances on New Year’s Eve. Minister Joey Hew acknowledged that government could seek to change the law in future but this was not possible before New Year’s Eve 2017.
The premier did not respond to questions from the Compass Thursday about the gospel event, which is sponsored by government. In a statement to Cayman 27, he said he was appalled that anyone would equate a gospel concert with a “secular dance” and characterized criticism of the event as an attack on Christian traditions.