(CNS): The Cayman Islands Tourism Association is asking government to change the laws relating to liquor licensing and music and dancing following the negative impact on the sector this New Year. The private sector body said it has had a series of meetings with Commerce Minister Joey Hew, other government officials and members of the Liquor Licensing Board to talk about the “grievance and disappointment” in the tourism industry arising from restrictions to music and dancing on New Year’s Eve 2017, which fell on a Sunday. But the sector may have an uphill battle to secure real change.
CITA President Theresa Leacock-Broderick and the CITA directors are calling for a review and revision to the relevant laws to ensure that such situations are avoided in future. The association is also advocating for the “elimination of any ambiguities particularly regarding the general playing of music and liquor sales on Sundays”.
In a release about the issue, CITA said the laws must not unreasonably restrict the industry’s ability to deliver on the service and entertainment expectations of visitors to the Cayman Islands.
“We are pleased to learn that Minister Hew has already commenced with the preliminaries and that he is open to the input of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association,” said Leacock-Broderick. “We now understand that it may be possible to address some of the industry’s issues and concerns in the short-term, while others may have to be addressed as part of a comprehensive review and revision of the laws in the longer term.”
But it appears that the government is not ready to act quickly to make any significant changes and still has one eye on opposition from the conservative voices in the community that do not want to see changes to any kind of Sunday trading or booze sales.
Hew told CITA that the government recognises the importance of tourism to the country but other associations will be consulted prior to any draft revisions, which ultimately will be open to further public consultation. “I look forward to working with all our stakeholders to arrive at decisions that are in the best interests of our people and these islands,” Hew said.
Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell has said his ministry supports the collaborative approach to bringing about a resolution to these issues but has made no firm commitment to back a fundamental change to the laws that currently limit Sunday business involving booze and music.
“Tourism is a dynamic industry and we remain open to exploring options which meet visitor expectations while respecting the values and perspective of our people,” he said.
During the previous PPM led administration, then commerce minister Wayne Panton, who had supported a revision of these and Sunday trading legislation, failed to achieve any meaningful change to this collection of legislation as a result of concerted opposition from the grass-roots Progressive membership and the church.
The Liquor Licensing Board has also come up against some thorny problems over the sale of booze on Sundays by retail liquor stores and the challenges presented by the current licensing law. At the last meeting of the board, now chaired by Noel Williams, both he and his deputy attorney, Lynne Bodden, said the legislation needed to be changed to create a level playing field and remove any confusion about who and under what restrictions stores and gas stations can sell alcohol on Sundays.
CITA has said it intends to collect more views from its members in order to clearly represent and advocate for the sector during the process of legislative changes. It is encouraging members to attend their regular sector meetings and to participate in the discussion groups and surveys on this subject over the upcoming weeks.
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