November 28, 2020

HOLIDAY DRINK REPRIEVE

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New Year’s Eve law change for late-night bars

Lawmakers yesterday cleared the way for late music and dancing on Saturday’s New Year’s Eve, enabling bars and restaurants to cater to late-night party-goers.

“We have been trying to find a way to support the business community, who have approached me about this,” Premier McKeeva Bush told iNews Cayman yesterday.

“We will offer an amendment into the Legislative Assembly this morning,” he said, just prior to yesterday’s gathering.

The approval drew sighs of relief all over town.

“It’s the right thing to do, and they are finally getting it right,” said Kim Lund, longtime real-estate mogul and owner of Rackam’s, Lone Star Café and Carlos and Martin’s.

“It’s absolutely good news, for local people, for the Cayman Islands and it is really a decision for all the tourists that have come here for Christmas and New Years,” he said recalling 2005’s similar Saturday night New Year’s Eve and strict enforcement of midnight-closing laws.

“We did this once before and people still remember it,” Mr Lund said.

Yesterday’s amendment gives discretion to Liquor Licencing Board Chairman Mitchell Welds to extend music-and-dancing hours on any New Year’s Eve that falls on a Saturday. The chairman has always had the ability to allow post-midnight liquor sales, but has previously been prevented from permitting post-midnight music and dancing.

Bars, clubs and restaurants, said board secretary Marva Scott-Dunbar, were likely to flood the panel with extension requests, meaning the board would have to meet quickly.

“All the licencees will have to submit requests for extensions,” she said. “I’m waiting for a call from the chairman, and we may meet as soon as Friday to decide to what hours we will extend.”

President of the Cayman Islands Tourist Association Harry Lalli welcomed the development: ”We’ve been pushing this since May, so it’s great news. It will keep the tourists and the locals happy, places can hire local bands to play and, economically speaking, it will give everybody a break.

“New Year’s Eve is also a big night for the service industry, so this is a big win-win,” he said. “Government will also earn revenues from all the extra liquor that is purchased.”

Manager of the Wharf Restaurant, Reno Mancini, told iNews Cayman in October that it was already too late to plan major celebrations because of the lead time for creating special menus, employing additional staff and ordering food, beverage and accessories.

Yesterday, however, Mr Mancini said rumours of the extension had been circulating for weeks, and, while a little risky, planning was well advanced for The Wharf’s party.

“It’s definitely good news for all of us: the island, the business community and tourists, giving them a real Caribbean feel for a New Year’s without snow,” he said.

“We’re excited and it puts a little pressure on us to get all the details organised, but we’re taking the initiative and have already made a couple of calls to get everything in on express.” The Wharf, Mr Mancini said, “will definitely be going full steam ahead.”

Finally, Handel Whittaker, owner of Public Beach’s Calico Jack’s, also welcomed the news, saying he had been prepared, however, either way.

“I know that before, they had said no music after midnight,” Mr Whittaker said, referring to 2005, and I supported that, but if they feel it’s right to change it now, I stand by that.

“It’s good news for Calico’s, and it’s very attractive. I am pleased for the island and personally want to thank government for what they are doing,” Mr Whittaker said.

Yesterday’s amendment came after Cabinet deliberations on Tuesday, weighing the complexities of changing the law.

The Ministry of Tourism, said Deputy Chief Officer Dalton Whittaker, had been approached by several establishments and the Cayman Islands Tourist Association, “and so we looked at the law and did a paper with our concerns, then made our recommendations and sent it to Cabinet.”

He explained that the extension had not been contingent on applications from industry leaders, but was a legal matter “and the law is very clear. It’s not a matter of policy — which can be changed. It’s the law and it says you must close at midnight on a Saturday.

“So we need to be cognisant of that. You can’t just create a law to override a law. You have to find other ways to do it,” he said.

Saying the business community had matured into a major economic and competitive force in the last decade, Mr Mancini was pleased at yesterday’s amendment: ”We are just grateful they are extending the hours and helping the bars.”

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