An historic change has come to the small community of Man-O-War Cay bringing with it a mixture of feelings and opinions as the formerly ‘dry’ island now has an establishment selling adult beverages for the first time.
In response to this change Jeremy Sweeting, Chief Councillor of the Hope Town District Council, noted his disappointment in the changes in the legislation that took the power of granting business licenses out of Local Government’s hands which he forewarned in 2010 would lead to this.
“After thorough study and analysis in 2010, the Hope Town District Council had the foresight and warned central government on four (4) documented occasions, registering our concern of the potential dangers in implementing the current Business License Act 2010,” Mr. Sweeting said.
He noted that had local government continued to hold this authority, no such license for the sale of alcohol would have been granted for Man-O-War Cay. “The Hope Town District Council have always respected the feelings and culture of the residents of Man-O-War Cay on this issue, and sadly this new law does not,” he said.
For clarity Mr. Sweeting added that “In fairness to the applicant and now license holder, he is in his right under the new law, and there are no legal means presently, that would dismiss this license. After several failed attempts over the years by other persons to obtain a license under the former law, the current license holder is exercising his right under the new law, and happens to be the first one that has been granted a license. We find this no fault of his in a sense, but in the government for not taking heed to our forewarning of their not allowing small communities to play key roles in the issuance of licenses.”
He noted that Man-O-War is not the only township that has had licensing issues under the new law as there are multiple cases, where licenses have been “blindly approved by someone at the desk at Business License in Marsh Harbour, not knowing the feelings on the ground, not knowing the geography of the island, and not knowing if a particular business can be acceptable in a neighborhood or community.”
Mr. Sweeting said that “Some of our subdivisions are laden with covenants and other areas with zoning regulations; local government is sensitive to all of these issues and local knowledge must be a part of the decision making process with all licensing applications. We must be made aware prior to licenses being issued.”
He said that “the government best for the people is the government that is closest to the people. This law, as warned in 2010, is a step back in the decentralization process.”
Mr. Sweeting concluded that going forward, “the [Hope Town District] Council strongly recommends that the law be amended to bring the communities and local government into the licensing process, so that in this democratic society, the people can have a voice in what kind of businesses are best suited for the area in which they live.”
After learning of the restaurant serving liquor on Man-O-War Cay one resident created a poster asking the community to come together and keep their island as they know it while decrying the liquor sales as well as illegal migrants living and working on the cay.
Tommy Albury, owner of Man-O-War Marina and Dock n’ Dine Restaurant said that while he tried to honour the tradition of Man-O-War being a “dry island”, he found that it was detrimental to his business and led to some visitors turning away to other locations where they could have access to alcohol.
He said, “Almost daily we received complaints from our guests that they were not able to enjoy a beer with their meals. It happened quite often, but during lunch service one day in June we had 18 guests get up after being told that we could not offer them beer with their meal, and leave the restaurant then get in their boats to go to a different island so they could enjoy themselves. Many others stated that they would not be back to this island.”
Mr. Albury said that the “tradition” has given the impression that Man-O-War is not welcoming to visitors and that, in his opinion, “Man-O-War is getting left behind because of this reputation.”
He noted that in The Bahamas, a Restaurant License includes permission for the sale of beer and wine. “Over the past season, I tried my best to see if the restaurant could make it without the sale of alcohol, but it cannot. Therefore, when we re-opened for this season on October 17th, I did what was necessary and permissible for me to do in order to make the restaurant a success, which is a vital part of my plans to add rooms and villas to attract more visitors to the island.”
He added that out of respect for his community he has implemented policies on how they sell beer and wine to ensure it stays in the restaurant and screening occurs to prevent minors from buying alcohol.
He said that while he is as concerned about the future of Man-O-War as anyone else he believes there can be “a balance which can be accomplished when we are responsible with our rights and privileges.”
Tommy Albury’s Full Statement:
“Man-O-War Cay is a beautiful place and I am blessed to be a direct decedent of Benjamin and Eleanor Albury who settled the Cay in the early 1800’s. As it is well known, Man-O-War has always been a “dry island” which means that the sale of alcohol has not been permitted. However, this is only a tradition, as there are no laws that prevent the sale of alcohol.
“I currently own and operate Man-O-War Marina Ltd. and the Dock & Dine Restaurant. Over the past spring and summer season we were trying to re-establish the restaurant by bringing in trained chefs and updating the menu offerings. However, almost daily we received complaints from our guests that they were not able to enjoy a beer with their meals. It happened quite often, but during lunch service one day in June we had 18 guests get up after being told that we could not offer them beer with their meal, and leave the restaurant then get in their boats to go to a different island so they could enjoy themselves. Many others stated that they would not be back to this island.
“This “tradition” and others, has caused the impression that Man-O-War Cay does not welcome visitors. WHICH IS NOT CORRECT! We as a country rely on visitors that come and enjoy the beauty of our islands. Our Government spends millions of dollars in advertising, we as local businesses have hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in facilities to make sure that when our visitors arrive, they will have an enjoyable experience.
“It is my opinion that Man-O-War is getting left behind because of this reputation. I describe it as we are quickly becoming a “private/gated” community where many people have to leave the island daily for work as small businesses are becoming fewer and fewer. There has been growth on the other islands, but Man-O-War seems to be lagging behind. This is fine for those that have made their money or have second homes, but what about my four children as they grow up. How are they going to be able to live and work here?
“In this country, a Restaurant License includes permission for the sale of beer and wine. Over the past season, I tried my best to see if the restaurant could make it without the sale of alcohol, but it cannot. Therefore, when we re-opened for this season on October 17th, I did what was necessary and permissible for me to do in order to make the restaurant a success, which is a vital part of my plans to add rooms and villas to attract more visitors to the island. However, out of respect for my community, I have implemented policies on how we sell beer and wine. We do not sell alcohol for takeout, you must order from the menu, beer is served in a chilled glass so that people will not be walking around town with open bottles, etc., and we check the ID of anyone that appears to be under 21 just to be sure.
“I can assure you that I am as concerned about the future of my home as much as anyone, and I understand that change can be difficult. However, I do believe that there is a balance which can be accomplished when we are RESPONSIBLE with our rights and privileges. My focus has been and always will be, to make sure that we welcome EVERYONE to our beautiful island and to do our best to help them enjoy their visit, so that they will return again.”