Booze bill lifts current moratorium

| 13/10/2015 | 0 Comments

booze(CNS): Government’s moratorium on new licences for businesses to sell alcohol will end with the passing of a new bill, which is expected to be debated in the Legislative Assembly this week. Government is bringing amendments to the liquor licensing law, which will also tie liquor licences to specific trade and business licences, allow more flexibility in opening hours and change the constitution of the Liquor Licensing Board on Grand Cayman to double its size. One of the main goals of the legislative change is to put an end to the current leasing of licences at inflated prices.

Commerce Minister Wayne Panton said he expects the law to mitigate current practices regarding the bartering of licences with the need to have a valid trade and business licence for a going concern and an end to the moratorium.

“We have seen where the moratorium has allowed current licence holders to ‘rent’ their licences to others for large amounts,” he said. “This bill proposes the elimination of that practice by tying licences to businesses through the Trade and Business Licensing Law. Therefore, if a business ceases its operations, its liquor licence also becomes void.”

The current ban on issuing new licences is for an indefinite period but when the new law comes into effect it will cease and Cabinet can decide if it wishes to put a new moratorium in place. However, it will need to give an expiration date to guide the Liquor Licensing Board on future grants.

A lifting of the moratorium will allow licence holders who have had to sublet a licence from someone else who does not have a going concern to apply for their own license to tie to their trade and business licence. Existing liquor licences not linked directly to a trade and business licence will now expire. The end of the ban does not mean that the number of liquor licences will necessarily increase but it means that they will need to be linked directly to a going concern and, given that there are many licences held by individuals not tied to any existing licensed premises, they could be recycled as new licences.

Officials said the new bill would remove the requirement that licensed premises have to be open in strict accordance with the hours specified on individual licences. This means that premises licensed to sell liquor between 9am and midnight are no longer obligated to open at 9am or remain open until midnight but can trade at any time within those specified hours.

The new law also introduces trade officers who, at the request of the board, will inspect licensed premises and report whether they are being used in accordance with their licences.

In addition, the bill proposes to change the constitution of the Liquor Licensing Board. In Grand Cayman the board would double from five to ten members, with representatives from the Department of Commerce and Investment, the Department of Planning and the Department of Environmental Health. For the Sister Islands, there would be an increase from five to eight members. All Liquor Licensing Board meetings will remain open to the public and members will be able to attend via teleconference or other electronic means if they cannot attend in person.

Once enacted, the penalty for noncompliance with the Liquor Licensing Law will be a maximum fine of up to $10,000 upon summary conviction.

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Category: Local Business, Retail

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