A dozen liquor stores and gas stations have been granted licenses to sell alcohol on Sundays under a new licensing regime.
Several business owners were called to a special meeting of the Liquor Licensing Board of Grand Cayman on Friday where the rules were outlined and licenses were handed out.
The decision brings to an end a year-long debate over the legality of Sunday opening.
Liquor Licensing Board Chairman Noel Williams told the Cayman Compass the board had sought extensive legal advice in an effort to come to the right decision.
He said there was no legal reason to deny businesses, which have package licenses for Monday to Saturday opening, the right to also seek a retail license to open on Sundays.
But, he said, the board could place conditions on those licenses, including restricting opening hours and banning consumption of alcohol on the premises.
He said all businesses which had pending applications before the board had been granted Sunday retail licenses, similar to that previously given to the Peanuts store at Red Bay gas station.
“We had to make it a level playing field for all,” he said.
Any other similar business can now apply for the same type of license to operate on Sundays.
Robert Hamaty, owner of the Tortuga Rum Company, opened two of his outlets, on Seven Mile Beach and at Industrial Park, Sunday.
He said the board had reached a good compromise by allowing Sunday sales but restricting hours from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Mr. Williams said the board had gone “above and beyond,” including consulting the attorney general, to ensure it came to the right decision.
He added, “There was no legal reason not to grant the retail licenses for specified operating hours on Sunday. There is nothing in the law that prevents the issuance of this license to any licensee with a package license.
“The main reason for the grant was to accommodate the tourists arriving on the island on Sundays and to prevent illegal sales.”
He said there were still issues with the law that are expected to be addressed by government in the coming year.
The issue of Sunday trading for liquor stores has been rumbling since March of last year when the board granted, then retracted, a retail license that allowed the Peanuts store at Red Bay gas station to sell beer, wine and spirits to customers seven days a week. The controversy over the decision led to the former chairman of the Liquor Licensing Board, Woody DaCosta, being removed from the post.
After a series of stories in the Compass and an internal audit investigation, the board was compelled to uphold its original decision and grant the license to Peanuts.
But further applications were held in abeyance as the new board sought legal advice to clarify its powers under the Liquor Licensing Law.
That process concluded Friday with the granting of 12 licenses to businesses, including Brown’s Esso, H & B gas stations and the Tortuga Rum Company.
Cline Glidden, an attorney who brought the initial application on behalf of Peanuts and who also represented Brown’s Esso, said he was happy with the outcome.
“The board did what we have always contested they are allowed to do under the law,” he said. Mr. Hamaty said he had not wanted to open his stores on Sundays, but felt compelled to do so to stay up with the competition.
“We are going to try it with two stores and see how it goes,” he said.
“I think it is a good compromise but I believe the anomalies in the law still need to be looked at.” Joey Hew, the minister for commerce, has indicated government plans to bring amendments to the Liquor Licensing Law this year.
Mr. Glidden said he did not expect those changes to impact the now established rights of businesses to open Sundays.
He said the aim of any future changes should be to allow liquor stores to extend their regular package licenses for Sunday opening.
Currently, liquor stores have to seek an extra retail license, which restricts sales to a minimum of a case of beer or a bottle of wine.