Commerce Minister Joey Hew

Selling alcohol on Sundays and hosting a party with live music on New Year’s Eve, two issues that caused considerable controversy over the past year, are set to be resolved with a pair of legislative amendments.

Government has tabled bills amending the Liquor Licensing Law and the Music and Dancing Control Law. The amendments will allow bars, nightclubs and promoters to permit live music on New Year’s Eve when it falls on a Sunday. Last year, venues were forced to wait till midnight before they could get the party started.

The prohibition caused pushback from the hospitality industry. Many venues were caught unawares and were forced to cancel bands and DJs booked for the night.

Commerce Minister Joey Hew said government had listened to those concerns and had moved to resolve the issue after consultation with industry leaders, as well with as the National Drug Council and the Cayman Ministers’ Association.

Similarly, he said, the concerns of the industry and the wider community over the handling of Sunday alcohol sales had influenced changes to the Liquor Licensing Law.

Amendments to the law simplify and clarify the rules around Sunday trading for liquor stores and gas stations.

The Liquor Licensing Board, after a lengthy and at-times controversial debate, had already agreed to allow Sunday sales for convenience stores, gas stations and liquor stores. In a decision, announced in April, the board concluded, after taking legal advice, that it was permitted to grant retail licenses, typically reserved for bars, to other types of business.

Retail licenses allow for Sunday sales of alcohol to be taken off premises, in quantities of a case of beer or a bottle of spirits or more. Package licenses, the more common category for traditional liquor stores, only permit Monday to Saturday hours but place no restrictions on quantity.

The amendments extend Sunday opening to package license holders, at the board’s discretion, and clarify that retail licenses should be reserved for bars and other venues that sell alcohol on the premises.

Mr. Hew said this tweak would make things simpler for businesses and ensure they were licensed in the right category.

A much more comprehensive review, potentially combining the Music and Dancing Control Law and the Liquor Licensing Law is planned in the longer term. Mr. Hew said his intention was to modernize the law and take a closer look at rules around the training of bar staff and the advertising of alcohol.

He said the current amendments, which will go to the Legislative Assembly later this month, addressed issues that needed to be dealt with more urgently.

Cline Glidden, a lawyer who represented the Peanuts convenience store at Red Bay gas station in its efforts to get a retail license to sell alcohol on Sundays, welcomed the amendment. He said the impact of the change would be that his clients would only need one license – a package license – and would not be limited to bulk sales only on Sundays.

“It is a sensible decision,” he said, “and from a business perspective it makes life simpler because you now only need one license instead of two.”

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