Two weeks to get licensed, or pack up shop.
The Department of Commerce and Investment (DCI) is cracking down on unlicensed vendors at the West Bay public dock.
Vendors told Cayman 27 they are willing to pay a license fee to stay, but they can’t afford to meet the pension and insurance requirements under the new trade and business law.
On a hot and quiet Wednesday (18 may) at the West Bay dock, vendors wait for customers under the shade of their makeshift stores. Across the bay, cruise ships are in George Town harbour. The hope is, busloads of tourists will stop and spend money on souvenirs.
“Many days we don’t even make a dollar,” said Mack Bush, who has been setting up shop at the dock for more than a decade.
He’s proud of his role as a front-facing Caymanian in tourism.
“I do this because I like it,” he said. “I like the tourism trade, and here I am now they’re chasing me away.”
Tuesday (17 May), DCI Enforcement Officers served Mr. Bush and other vendors notice: get licensed in two weeks, or face prosecution.
“Failure to comply with this notice can result in the issuance of ticketable fines under section 35 of the law, and legal action may be taken against you,” read Mr. Bush from the warning paper.
“If they want a fee, then charge us, as long as they don’t take our arms and legs. I know it’s only $75 for the license, I ‘m willing,” said Mitzi Booth, another West Bay dock vendor.
She told Cayman 27 she wants to comply with the law, but she said the DCI keeps giving her the runaround.
“I ‘ve been trying the last few years and no one seems to want to issue this mobile license. No one,” she said.
Mr. Bush said he’s willing and able to shell out $75 to become compliant, but says there’s no way he can meet the pension and insurance requirements.
“Can I pay $380 a month to sell little souvenirs, be good to tourists, direct tourists, help the tourists, promote this country? Pay that kind of money when there’s days, weeks, we don’t make $50? Somethings got to be wrong,” he said.
“What am I going to do? What am I going to live off of?” asked Ms. Booth.
Ms. Booth told Cayman 27 she fears without her income from the souvenir sales, she’ll be forced onto the breadline.
“If they shut me down in the two weeks, I ‘m prepared to go to the social services,” said Ms. Booth. “If they can’t help me the I will have to continue, if they put me in jail they’ll have to give me a reason why they’re putting me in jail. I’m not a criminal, I’m not breaking any laws, I’m just trying to keep my head above water, I’m just trying to keep a meal on my table.”
The DCI told Cayman 27 it’s been working to educate vendors about the new trade and business law even before it came into effect on January 1st.
It’s encouraging vendors operating on public beaches to be properly licensed under that law.
“Our ultimate objective is to see these beach vendors operating in a manner that supports the local economy, and, in turn, the country’s reputation. The use of warnings, tickets and other enforcement methods remains a last resort,” said a DCI spokesperson in a statement Wednesday afternoon.