Changes to liquor law coming

Commerce Minister Joey Hew says amendments to the Liquor Licensing Law are needed.

Government is planning changes to the Liquor Licensing Law to deal with inconsistencies over who can sell beer, wine and spirits on Sundays.

But it is not going to happen during this session of the Legislative Assembly, according to Commerce Minister Joey Hew.

Currently, the Liquor Licensing Board is unable to move on pending applications from a number of stores and gas stations to sell alcohol on Sundays.

Peanuts store at Red Bay gas station was finally granted a license in September after months of administrative wrangling, including an attempt by the previous board to rescind its decision by altering the minutes to its meeting.

It is still not clear if the law was intended to allow for Sunday sales and the board has asked government to clarify before it makes a decision on other applications.

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Mr. Hew agrees that changes to the legislation are needed. He said government was consulting with interested groups and would look to make some changes at the session of the Legislative Assembly following the one which starts on Wednesday.

He said a more comprehensive review of the law, as well as the Music and Dancing Law that currently prohibits loud music on Sundays, would follow.

Mr. Hew said, “We are still in consultation but there are areas in the law that need clarifying.

“At the moment, there are several businesses in a couple of categories that are allowed to sell alcohol on Sundays.”

He said businesses were currently able to apply for multiple different categories of license, which carry different conditions.

The immediate reforms will focus on whether this should continue or if license holders should be restricted to one type of license, for example, package licenses for stores and retail licenses for bars.

Within that context, he said, government was discussing whether Sunday opening – already allowed for retail license holders – could be extended to package license holders as well, with certain time restrictions.

Mr. Hew acknowledged there was currently uncertainty over how the law should be applied.

“We have to clarify and fix this,” he said.

Robert Hamaty, owner of Tortuga Rum, is one of the applicants waiting for approval on an application to open his stores on Sundays. He has long maintained that he does not want to open seven days a week but claims he will be forced to for competitive purposes if his rivals are allowed to do so.

He said he believed the law had been wrongly applied to grant the license to Peanuts to sell on Sundays and suggested the whole issue of gas stations selling alcohol should be reconsidered.

“In most countries, liquor licenses are categorized either as ‘on premise’ for bars, hotels and restaurants and ‘off premise’ for liquor stores. Is alcohol available on Sundays in the Cayman Islands? Yes, but for ‘on premise’ only.

“Is there a need for liquor sales on Sunday for ‘off premise’ establishments? I am of the opinion, no.”

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  1. In most of the UK I can buy alcohol in the supermarkets 362 days a year – the exceptions being Easter Monday, Boxing Day and Christmas Day. Some of the 7/11-style chains there sell booze 365 days a year and just about every large gas station is licensed 24/7. But I can remember back when pubs and shops closed on Sundays, when sales of alcohol were restricted to ‘off-licences’ and also the early days of Sunday trading when the sale of alcohol was stilled banned. We’ve moved on a long way from that. It’s evolution Mr Hamaty – get used to it.

  2. Just by way of correctio, Mr Williams, U.K. Law on supermarkets selling alcohol is confined to Christmas Day and Easter Sunday – days when they cannot open at all.

    Pubs have closed on Sundays previously in Scotland and parts of Wales but in England, pubs could open on Sundays, albeit with reduced hours. The restrictions in England were only removed in the past 20 years. The restrictions in Scotland and Wales many years before.

    I am not sure where you get the information on ‘large gas stations’ – on motorways, service areas must open 24\7 and within those you can buy alcohol. Less than 5% of other gas stations open 24/7 and those that do may have restrictions on the hours they can sell alcohol.