October 30, 2020

NO TIME TO PARTY: Bars bitter over booze board plans

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Some owners think the hour may already be too late, but the Liquor Licencing Board says it’s thinking about midnight closing laws on New Year’s Eve.

The holiday falls on Saturday night this year, and restaurant and bar owners are recalling the disaster that ensued in a similar situation six years ago when laws requiring midnight closings and a halt to alcohol sales were strictly enforced.

This time, however, Board Chairman Mitchell Welds says he is thinking about making arrangements to enable late openings, but has not made any decisions yet.

“It’s already too late,” said Reno Mancini, manager at The Wharf, which sponsors one of Cayman’s biggest New Year’s Eve parties each year.

“We need to prepare in July or August, and I have been asking the board since April or May: Can I be open? Can I extend? I have talked to [Premier] McKeeva Bush about it, and at this point, he said, he hasn’t made any decisions,” Mr Mancini said.

Less worried, Handel Whittaker, owner of the beachfront Calico Jack’s, said he would take advantage if New Year’s Eve extensions became available, but, if not, he told iNews, “we are not going to cry about it.

“I don’t think there’s much we can do about it,” he said, “but it’s not necessary to do everything they do in New York. We don’t need to bring in parties all night. We don’t need to open until 3am.

“Cayman is a religious society, and I don’t have a problem closing at 1 o’clock at night. One of the things that ticks me off is that we allow any Tom, Dick and Harry to come in and dictate what we should do. If the board is mindful to extend the hours, then that is something we will all apply for, but if not well, I don’t have a problem with it.”

Mr Welds, citing 2005, said the problem “always happens when New Year’s Eve falls on a Saturday”, and that “licenced establishments” had “already been advised that this happens and that they have to close at midnight.

“However,” he said, “the problem is being sorted out at the moment.

Calico Jack’s

“We are looking at the regulations and if there is a way around for the licenced establishments. We are aware it’s a problem,” he said, “and are trying to find how the board may be able to accommodate them.

“We are looking to see about extending the hours into New Year’s Day, but they would have to get approval.

He declined to indicate how many hours the extension might encompass, but said the board’s quarterly meeting was scheduled for December when “we may have some information for them”.

While one bar owner, asking anonymity, said a 2am deadline was under consideration, Mr Mancini said December “information” was far beyond the time needed to plan, although 2am, he said, was “plenty — I don’t need more than that, and a lot of people would be ok with that.”

But at the moment, especially with no planning and no decision, he said, “it means everyone has to leave at 11:30. I already have 90 people booked, but they are going to have to go home.”

Mr Mancini lamented what it meant for the Cayman Islands and its tourist industry, particularly in a recession, to turn away visitors.

“We need to hire a DJ, order fireworks, party favours, champagne, wine, food. These things all come from overseas. We need a band, and they can’t just be sitting around wondering what they are going to do. They’ll go elsewhere. People are planning their vacations, they plan a year ahead of time.

“It’s not just about parties. Tourists come to our beautiful island and we tell them nothing is open? You can’t close a country at 11:30 at night.

“I spend thousands of dollars, and everyone makes money. This means, though, that government doesn’t get the duty fees, the freight is not moved, and employees don’t work. This is a business issue,” he said.

 

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