A total of 15 liquor stores, most of them in George Town and the Seven Mile Beach area, have been granted permission for extended hours, according to the chairman of the Liquor Licensing Board, Mitchell Welds.
The new hours vary, but most of the stores affected will be open between from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. or from 10 a.m to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
On Sept. 20, Mr. Welds exercised his discretionary power as chairman under Section 13 of the Liquor Licensing Law to grant applicants permission to keep liquor stores open until 10 p.m.
In addition to the 10 stores that applied for extended hours during the board’s September meeting, some additional operations were granted extended hours under Section 13 of the Liquor Licensing Law. Mr. Welds said the board would publish a full list of the stores’ opening times at a later date.
The board notified the Compass of Mr. Welds’s decisions via email Sept. 23. At the bottom of the board’s email was a message dated Sept. 18 from Ryan Rajkumarsingh, director of the Department of Commerce and Investment, which assumed oversight responsibility for the board in July. Mr. Rajkumarsingh’s email indicates that Cabinet Minister Wayne Panton urged Mr. Welds to grant the extended hours.
Issues regarding the board
The extended hours were approved in the wake of alleged conflict of interest issues regarding the current leadership of the Liquor Licensing Board.
The board has drawn fire due to alleged conflicts of interest from some liquor license-holders. Longtime chairman Welds’s mother owns a West Bay liquor store, and Welds’s son runs a mobile bartending business. A Caymanian Compass analysis of board records shows that board member Neil Bryington held 15 liquor and music and dancing licenses of different varieties.
During the board’s annual general meeting on Sept. 12, the allegations prompted Mr. Welds, along with board members Tammy Welds, his niece, and Mr. Bryington to recuse themselves from considering several agenda items related to extended hours for liquor stores in George Town and West Bay.
Not all applicants approved
Not all stores were granted section 13 extensions to their operating times. One that was turned down was Tortuga’s package/retail operations at its North Sound Road complex in Industrial Park.
Mr. Welds said the request from Tortuga Rum Company’s managing director Robert Hamaty was denied as a result of the board’s concerns about Tortuga operating outside the terms of its current liquor, distributors and retail licenses.
Mr. Hamaty blasted the decision in a letter to Minister Panton earlier this month. “I fully endorse [recommendations to approve later hours for package stores] as it served to restore a level playing field and ensure that fair competition between all holders of package licenses was maintained,” Mr. Hamaty wrote.
“However, we are now at a significant disadvantage because our competitors in the vicinity [of the North Sound Road store] have been granted extensions to 10 p.m.”
The next liquor board meeting on Grand Cayman has been tentatively scheduled for the first week in December.