Board refuses wine shop license

| 26/04/2010

(CNS): Following the meeting of the Liquor Licensing Board on Thursday plans by wine merchant Jacques Scott to open a new store flagship store in West Bay have been derailed after the board did not grant a license. Peter Dutton had made an application for a change of location for an existing licence at Jacques Scotts’ small store at the harbour front in George Town to a proposed new location by Foster’s Republix. Dutton and his lawyer presented the plans for the new West Bay store to the board on Thursday afternoon. However, a number of objections were raised from local residents and existing liquor stores in the district and the board refused the application.

Before the application and objections were made Mitchell Welds Chairman of the Licensing Board recused himself and as he said he was related to one of the objectors leaving the deliberations in the hands of his deputy.
Gary Haylock representing the West Bay resident’s committee objected on moral grounds and also suggested there were already too many liquor stores in West Bay. He said that the recent escalation of crime in the district would be further aggravated by adding another store selling alcohol. “There are already too many alcohol outlets in our community,” he told the board adding that he had never heard anyone in the district complain it needed more because alcohol was readily available.
Haylock believed that availability was already a contributing factor in the problems of crime for the district. “Alcohol is only good for one thing and that is to get drunk and where people are drunk there is always trouble,” he said adding that the existing stores were a problem without adding another one. “There is no need for any additional liquor outlets.” Haylock also handed in a petition of signatures against the store though the numbers were not revealed.
An objection on behalf of Joe-Enas Liquor Store on Church Street West Bay was also presented by lawyer by Patrick Schmidt who said that the arrival of Jacques Scott would be damaging for his client’s business which was Caymanian owned and run and had served the people of West Bay for many years.
He pointed out that Jacques Scott was a large, successful and powerful business that had recently been able to afford to pay for ads in the newspapers to campaign for their store, his clients he said however were not and their livelihood was now under threat. Schmidt also pointed to the recent increase in crime which would not be helped with another alcohol license. He said with four stores already in the district it was well served and very competitive. He said another store would put Joe-Enas out of business which, with its long standing local experience, gave a personal service to its customers.
 Schmidt said while competition can be good the introduction of Jacque Scott would create an unfair playing field in an already small market and something would have to give especially with a new store at what could be described as the mouth of the district. “Jacques Scott will have an overwhelming marketing advantage,” Schmidt noted due to its size and resources and it would be the end of his client’s Caymanian family business, and probably the other local liquor stores, putting a number of West Bayers out of work. Schmidt said there was no public interest in the granting of a license to Jacques Scott.
On behalf of Jacques Scott Dutton and his lawyer Mac Imrie’s said the wine merchant was not in competition with the low stock-quick turnover model of the other local liquor stores like Joe-Enas which did not sell as wide a selection of fine wines.
It was stated that the new store would be part of a major redevelopment bringing jobs to the area as well as other commercial activity. Imrie said the planned $3million investment would drive new traffic to the district, would be a great looking store and offer more than just alcohol as it would be similar to Jacques Scott’s store in Savannah with kitchen and dinning-ware as well.
It was pointed out that unlike the current liquor stores it would not sell single units of alcohol and that it would have security guards on the premises during opening hours. Moreover Imrie said that none of Jacque Scott’s other stores have ever attracted crime or trouble of any kind.
“We are very sensitive to the issue of crime and have been at pains to point out we will have security at the store and will not be selling single alcohol units,” Imrie said.  “Far from being a problem we are hoping the store will improve the district.”
The wine merchants argued that West Bay far from having too many liquor stores was, for its size of population, under served and had the lowest population ratio to liquor stores of any district on Grand Cayman. The attorney also pointed out to the board that the law did not allow them to consider competition or moral objections to alcohol as grounds to reject the application.
However, despite the presentation, the fact that Jacque Scott has already made a deposit to purchase the land and the recent publicity campaign to promote the intended project notice was issued on Friday of the board’s deliberations and the application was not granted. CNS has contacted the wine merchants for their reaction and is waiting on a response.
During the afternoon’s session the board also heard an application by the licensee of Archie’s Place on Shedden Road, Trevor McIntosh who asked to have the ban on playing music overturned and permission to use the patio area as his business was suffering severely as a result. He said he did not think without music he would be able to keep the bar open. However, the board decided to continue the suspension of the Music & Dancing License and the decision on whether or not to grant permission for the use of an outdoor patio at the barwas deferred until June.
There was good news for Heather Lockington the owner of the Cotton Tree Company Limited, on Conch Point Road, West Bay who was granted a Hotel category Liquor License in order to serve alcohol to her guests staying at the holiday cottages and for Garth Ebanks the new Tiki Bar licensee as the chairman’s decision to allow him to operate from 11:00 am on Sundays was ratified.
There was however bad news for John Swanson of Jungle Nightclub who was not granted permission to operate on Tuesdays until 2:00 am Wednesday mornings of for Antonio Crescente at the Nectar Lounge in Seven Mile Shops who did not get a variation on his existing license to nightclub hours. Lester Timothy was also refused permission to use the patio area as part of the licensed premises outside his Power Supply Bar & Lounge at the bar in Marquee Plaza. Leonard Hew of the Office Lounge in George Town will have to wait until the June meeting to find out if he can extend his operating hours on Tuesdays until 2:00 am Wednesday mornings.
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