EDITORIAL – Beach chairs: Where does government stand?

More than five years after government vowed to crack down on unlicensed beach vendors, the Public Lands Commission is, literally, rearranging deck chairs rather than resolving underlying issues relating to these sorts of enterprises.

This week, the Central Planning Authority approved plans to upgrade amenities at Public Beach – a good thing. The new plans call for volleyball and soccer courts, huts for beach vendors and designated spots for food trucks. Officials say they hope the new infrastructure will help control commercial activity on the beach.

For years, residents and tourists have complained about the “carnival-type” atmosphere that reigns on Public Beach – with vendors hawking everything from beach chairs to umbrellas, Jet Skis to banana boats, as well as food and drink (and some say “smoke”).

Additionally, complaints have been lodged about particular vendors commandeering public cabanas, behaving rudely, and being deceptive and aggressive to reluctant potential customers. In the meantime, officials’ threats, pledges and promises to remedy the situation have grown steadily weaker.

At first, officials said vendors without valid trade and business licenses would be faced with fines and prison time. Then, they said vendors would be provided with training and licensing. Now, they are about to build them huts.

Confronted with a simple issue, rather than taking direct action – enforcing existing laws – officials and politicians have adopted the most circuitous course imaginable, and, in the process, managed to create yet another politically appointed body.

When the Legislative Assembly passed the Public Lands Law last spring, it established the Public Lands Commission specifically to license and regulate beach vendors. At the time, then-Minister Kurt Tibbetts provided assurances the commission would oversee an inspection unit which would be responsible for regulating commercial activity in Cayman’s public areas and policing vendors who use Public Beach.

Well … what’s happened since then, aside from the continuing expansion of vendor activity on Public Beach? Have inspectors been hired? Are they inspecting? Have guidelines been established? Has customer service and first aid training been conducted? Have licenses been issued? Etc., etc.

In this scenario, the beach vendors, from our perspective, aren’t “bad guys.” They might even be thought of as ambitious entrepreneurs trying to make a living by catering to palpable demand in the market.

The constantly shifting sands of government’s remonstrations and regulations must be as frustrating for vendors as it is for beachgoers, nearby residents and, frankly, common sense thinkers.

Here are some straightforward questions that government needs to address:

  • Are beach vendors required to obtain a trade and business license, in addition to whatever license the Public Lands Commission may issue?
  • Are vendors required to provide health insurance and pensions benefits, even if they are operating as “sole proprietorships?”
  • If not, what steps have been taken to exempt them legally from these requirements?
  • If vendors are to be exempted from these requirements, will those “carve-outs” also be applied to other businesses, be they large, small or “micro”? And, if so, on what basis?
  • If certain businesses are exempt from providing health insurance, will the responsibility fall to CINICO (i.e., the public purse)?


  1. Like many Caymanian (or any government) issues, the problem lies seemingly not in the planning, laws, or policy; rather the totality of planning to ensure effective project management focused on the objectives. Repeatedly, plans turn out to be “a whole lot of feathers and not much chicken”. There are strategic gaps with the good intentions of control and allocation of resources (be it time, money or management), to enforce the desired outcomes.
    As Winston Churchill once stated, “however beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results”.

  2. While the government is talking about chairs they should also do something about dogs. I walk the beach every day for about 1 1/2 hours and I an bothered by dogs not on leashes almost every day. I thought there was a law that said dogs most be on leashes. I have never been approached about marijuana but I am bothered by dogs

  3. Supposedly laws were created and fines were levied against those illegal vendors. Then Grand Cayman courts rescinded the fines and the illegal vendors continue to badger Public Beach goers and cover that beach with their plastic lounge chairs.

    It seems that Grand Cayman government is willing to bend the rules when it comes to a few MLA constituents needing to break the law.

    So third world…

  4. I believe that the Government and the Health Department has some serious issues that needs to be addressed with these vendors being given permission to operate on Public property .
    As I hear that no one can go to the public beach on any given day without being hassled by those vendors . Who owns the public beach ? Who are enforcing the public health safety ? What if someone came of cruise ship with serious contagious health issues. HEALTH ISSUES can be transmitted by using dirty unsanitary towels . Which I believe that the vendors aren’t trying to prevent.

  5. SMB is the ONLY thing of grand value in Grand Cayman. Coastal line of the island and other small beaches along with every inch of SMB must be given the highest level of protection on a national level. Protection from any development, protection from commercialization, pollution and environmental destruction.

    Unless CIG has resources and people are willing to build artificial islands as they did in Dubai.

    Stick with what nature has given to you. This island doesn’t need play fields, courts, Olympic size pools (or any pools near the coastal line), observation wheels and other similar Disneyland type entertainment. It doesn’t need additional 20K cruise ship visitors a day.

    Smith Cove has been saved. The rest of the island’s beaches are in dire need to be saved.

    • Ms Bell , I agree with your comment , and you mentioned that Smith Cove , has been saved . Do anyone remember what it took to save Smith Cove ? Is there any one trying to save the Public beach the same way ? I believe that all PUBLIC BEACHES AND ACCESS should be REGISTERED for 100 years, so that they will be exempt from development .
      I have to think that the Government has no intentions of “registering” and making that/any Public beach Public property .
      As you pointed out in your Trip Advisor comment, I see many problems that the Islands are going to be faced with in the future. And public beach access for the people now/future shouldn’t be one of them .

  6. Trip Advisor
    Trip Report 3/10 – 3/19
    Mar 23, 2018, 6:44 PM

    “Final observations: Not a fan of how more and more overly commercialized the west side of island is from year to year. Feel like you can see the charm of this island slowly changing for the worse. Fear the East End and North Side will succumb to the same fate in a matter of years.”

    “A observation on the whole “island time” attitude of service. Why is it I am told to relax your on island time yet when driving, in particular away from Georgetown, everyone drives like they are in a race, passing at all costs, with no regard to oncoming traffic.”

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