Wine shop denial quashed

| 01/10/2010

(CNS): The Grand Court has quashed a decision by the Cayman Islands Liquor Licensing Board (LLB) to refuse a local wine merchant a conditional license ahead of a planned $3 million commercial development in West Bay. However, the battle is not yet over for Jacques Scott, which had been denied a change of location retail licence for a new flagship store. Although the decision by the board was overturned. Chief Justice Anthony Smellie has not yet given directions on the next step in lieu of an affidavit from the deputy chair of the LLB, who presided over the decision. While Jacques Scott is hoping for a direction to grant the licence, the LLB is hoping for an entirely new hearing.

Legal arguments between Maples and Calder, acting for Jacques Scott, and the Attorney General’s Office for the LLB lasted for over four hours on Thursday afternoon during a judicial review of the board’s decision brought by the wine merchants.
 
While the legal department did not object to the quashing of the decision to refuse the license, counsel for the AG’s office asked for a direction for a new hearing. The attorney said that owing to “procedural irregularities” and the failure on the part of the board to consult various parties before it made its decision, the LLB was entitled to correct those mistakes by having an entirely new hearing in which the chief fire officer, planning and the commissioner of police, among others, could be consulted.
 
Maples argued, however, that the LLB’s claim was too late and that it had already had plenty of opportunity to consult the various parties at a long hearing in April this year, when objections were argued extensively and numerous people had their say. Mac Imrie said it was unfair and prejudicial to his client to go through the process again and that any future decision had to be based on the information from the previous hearing. If theAG’s office was now admitting that the original refusal was wrong, there was only one lawful course of action left and that was to grant the license.
 
Imrie had argued that all of the concerns regarding traffic and public order issues had been thoroughly addressed at the original hearing, where the police were present. He also pointed out that the store would be a fine wine and luxury kitchen shop, similar to the store at Country Side Village in Savannah. He said the store would close at 7pm, a security guard would be on duty during opening hours and it would not be selling single units of alcohol. It was therefore unfair to suggest the store, which was part of a wider commercial development, would add to the crime problems of the district.
 
“It’s not a bottle shop; it’s an upmarket store selling fine wines and luxury kitchen goods — something you can’t get in West Bay at the moment,” Imrie added.
 
The lawyer also pointed out that traffic issues would form part of the planning considerations and if the firm did not deal with those it would not be granted planning permission anyway, so there was no need for the LLB to solicit the Central Planning Authority at this early stage.
 
“This smacks to us of doing everything it can to stop the development,” Imrie said as he argued against allowing the LLB to completely start over and seek more objections.
 
The legal department argued that the LLB should be allowed to correct the irregularities which it said had taken place during the hearing and decision making process. While it accepted the decision to refuse had to be quashed, the LLB did not accept that the reasons for the denial were invalid but had been reached without following proper procedures, which was to solicit input from the commissioner of police, the fire officer, the CPA, the chief medical officer and others.
 
The CJ raised a number of concerns that the legal department had been late raising the point of procedural irregularities, but at the end of the four hour legal wrangling he said he wished to see an affidavit from the deputy chair, Noel Williams, in order to clarify the irregularities that the LLB wanted to cure. Although the CJ was not persuaded by the entire list of the people the board wanted to consult at a new hearing, he said there could be an issue of public interest regarding the input from the commissioner of police.
 
Jacque Scott has plans to be anchor tenants in their own development of a new retail complex on the empty lot next to Foster’s Supermarket Republix in West Bay, set to open at the end of next year. The LLB turned down the application by licensee Peter Dutton, who wanted to change the location of a liquor license from the Little Liquor Store on North Church Street to the new store, following a hearing of the board in April.
 
During the hearing objections were heard from local businesses that were concerned that another store would put them in financial difficulty as well as concerns of crime levels in the area and traffic congestion. Garett Haylock, speaking on behalf of the West Bay Residents Committee, who signed a petition objecting on moral grounds about to bringing more alcohol to the district.
 
At the time of the hearing Dutton saidthat the company was aware of objections to the store but had taken out an advertisement to spell out the plans in the local press. He had described the development as a statement of confidence in the West Bay district, which would bring business and employment to the district. The key issue, however, was the liquor licence and the need for a conditional grant for the flagship store before planning permissions could be sought.
 
Following Thursday’.s courtroom battle, Dutton said he was pleased that the first step in getting the denial of the licence overturned had been succesful. The next step now would be to persuade the courts that the board should be directed to grant the license.
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Comments (17)

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  1. Anonymous says:

     I do not understand how can we pride ourselves in our christian heritage when we allow ungodly liquor establishments to continually expand. It is difficult to offer any solutions to the social and moral breakdown in society when you are a part of the problem.

     

     

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hmmm, the way robberies are increasing perhaps JS might want to reconsider. Speaking for myself, I would be concerned if I were operating or seeking to operate a storefront retail business now.

  3. Anonymous says:

    LLB is a joke to start with, a bunch of people that have no idea about the restaurant, hotel and liq. industry!!

    I cant belive that a legit company wants to invest money in west bay of all places, and has to jump through hoops, to get a liq licence where at any time of the day you can find a bunch of stumbling drunks and crack heads near the school!!

    good luck JS and the rest of cayman to sort out the mess we are in. 

  4. Anonymous says:

    Is it really the small business man behind this? I doubt it. According to the marl road in Cayman, a certain developer/business man is working towards having a monopoly on the liquor/wine/beer business. He has already purchased three such businesses, so there is only 2 big ones who remain his competition and Jacques Scott is one of them. Jacques Scott should have their request granted.

    • Anonymous says:

       I’d like to hear how many neighbors to the projected protested the site.  Would you want a liquor store in your backyard?

  5. Anonymous says:

     What a shame! It seems like you only need money to get what you want.

  6. Flo says:

    This is protectionism as its greatest.  The big issue at hand here is not the availability of more booze in West Bay and the illogical conclusion that a Jacques Scott store will contribute to more killings, but has more to do with the threat of loss of business to a unnamed bottle shop (a geographic monopoly) just up the street.  (Well, a loss of business would be expected, considering they charge more than $20 for bottles of cheap plonk there). 

    But, the irony remains – we wonderwhy we have such a hard time attracting new inward investment and business into Cayman?  There always seems to be the standard old immigration/expat/culture arguments flung in defence of keeping investors out.  But the truth of the matter is that none of that expat stuff really matters – good ol’ Caymanian protectionism isn’t just reserved for foreigners.  We like to take it on against our own, too.

     

  7. Anonymous says:

    Government needs to stop wasting money and let consumers vote with their wallets. If this business is not wanted by the population it will fail.

  8. Marek says:

     

     

    Jacque Scott isn’t the only one being hurt here. This complex is designed to house several commercial tenants.

    When we first saw the plans we immediately contacted the developer to inquire about leasing space and expanding into West Bay. 

    So our expansion plans hang in the air as well until this issue gets resolved and the plaza gets built.

     

  9. Lullabye says:

    As long as Jacques Scott has been in the Cayman Islands conducting business giving jobs to Caymanians and all of a sudden he is faced with opposititon.

    It is a disgrace.

    Let theman exercise his own right to business as anyoneelse.

    Mr. Smellie will do the right thing and give the man his license.

    Liquor sells it will not hurt any other liquor store.

    I’m against liquor sales but I’m lookijg at this from a fairness erspective.

  10. MonkeySee says:

    I’m @ a loss for words here! 

     

    All of these government resources being used to argue about someone INVESTING in our community?!?!? Come on….

    Do you really think that the local partakers will defect from the small stores who will have lower prices and start frequenting Jacques Scott?  no!  Totally different level of shopper in my opinion! Unless, of course, the small stores take this as an opportunity to raise their prices under the guise of ‘competition’.

    Sigh…I’m positive these funds could be better utilised!

     

     

    • scratchin'mehead says:

      I agree with you – totally beyond belief.

      It seems common sense has also been hit by the recession and is a fast dying commodity in Cayman.

    • anonymous says:

      The District of West Bay needs a decent upmarket store to buy wines and spirits.  My wife and I made a mistake and went into one of the small rum shops in WB the other night and we were hassled for money and beer by the group outside.

      The proposed new facility and shopping complex will be a welcome addition to West Bay and is a development we could use right now.  I suspect that it will not hurt the small operators in WB either (they have their own loyal clients) but rather initially pull some business from the existing stores along 7MB.

       

       

  11. Anonymous says:

    well done!…a tiny step in the right direction for cayman….

  12. Adam Smith says:

    "During the hearing objections were heard from local businesses that were concerned that another store would put them in financial difficulty" – or put another way they feared competition.

    When people complain about prices in Cayman, they must understand board protectionism and the 60% ownership rule add significantly to the cost of living in Cayman by protecting inflated prices of existing businesses.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I dont understand why they cant set up shop! This is not a strip club.

    The world was supposed to come to an end when a store opened up in Savannah next to a school.  Guess what?  The store is very nice, no one "hangs out" to drink booze outside and there are no kids in there. Everytime I have been there its 2-3 people getting one bottle of wine or something like that.

    I would be more worried about the fast-food outlets nearby for the health of our kids.

    • Lexxxie says:

      And if it was a strip club? Why would that be a problem? Strippers are people too.