Premier McKeeva Bush called a meeting of liquor licence holders and Liquor Licence board members Monday afternoon to warn them that liquor licence fees will increase in order to raise revenue for next year’s budget.
“I come with no set figures in mind. There has to be some increase, and certainly we want to work with business. We want to work with the industry as much as possible,” said Mr. Bush, who is also Minister of Finance, Tourism and Development. “I don’t have to tell you that government cost has gone up. I think everyone knows that by now, and we’re trying to do something about it to the extent that we’ve been told by the Foreign Office to ‘do something about it or we’re going to do it’.”
More than 100 people attended the impromptu gathering at the Harquail Theatre, where licence holders pitched ideas such as graduated fees based on the size of businesses, allowing longer operating hours and lifting the moratorium on the issuance of new licences.
Saying lawmakers would propose an interim budget to cover two months of government spending, Mr. Bush said the interim budget would state that fees for liquor licence and music and dancing licence will increase, and hopefully say by how much they will increase.
He said changing the fees would take a separate law, so that would occur sometime between now and the end of August.
“I have been able to earmark any revenue coming from this to put into the new hospitality services training school. It will go to offset that cost,” Mr. Bush said.
The Cayman Islands budget must be approved by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which rejected an earlier version of the budget as having “unsustainable expenditures”.
Mr. Bush told the audience Monday that if the local government doesn’t increase liquor licence fees, then the UK authorities will likely propose far steeper increases than Cayman’s government would.
“They’re going to say, ‘increase it’. They’re going to say that,” he said.
Currently, liquor licence fees range from $1,000-$4,800 per year, depending on the nature and size of the business. Music and dancing licences are $500 per year.
Read more on this topic in Wednesday’s Caymanian Compass.