A hearing officer on Thursday ruled that the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs had the right to fine two companies and revoke their solicitors’ licenses for doing sidewalk promotions in downtown Charlotte Amalie.
In August, Caribbean Fun Stay and K&R Promotions filed two actions against DLCA pertaining to their solicitors’ licenses. One was an administrative complaint against DLCA, arguing that Commissioner Kenrick Robertson overstepped his bounds by fining the two companies and revoking or denying their solicitors’ licenses. The second was a complaint in District Court, arguing that DLCA denied the two companies their due process rights – the constitutional guarantee to be treated fairly and not unnecessarily deprived of rights or property.
Robertson, who has cracked down on downtown barkers since becoming commissioner in 2007, said that the hearing officer’s ruling was a victory for DLCA and vindication for him.
"He ruled that we have the authority to revoke licenses and fine barkers," Robertson said. "I feel good. The decision was in our favor."
K&R does marketing on behalf of Caribbean Fun Stay, which sells all-inclusive vacation packages, timeshares and rentals. It also indirectly books rooms on behalf of hotels and resorts. Both companies have used barkers – sidewalk promoters – to draw potential customers from the streets of Charlotte Amalie.
Barkers were once a fixture in downtown Charlotte Amalie. Responding to what he has described as concerns and complaints about the sidewalk solicitors, Robertson announced last summer that he would not renew any solicitors’ licenses for downtown barkers.
In the months since, barkers’ numbers have dwindled. Since August, DLCA has been fining unlicensed barkers and the businesses that employ them between $200 and $500 per violation. Robertson has said that any business that has unpaid barker fines will not be able to renew its business license.
Robertson said on Thursday that there have been no problems with unlicensed downtown barkers lately. DLCA enforcement officers will continue to monitor the downtown area to ensure that the law is being followed, Robertson said.
Carl Williams of Tom Bolt & Associates, the attorney for K&R and Caribbean Fun Stay, said that he disagrees with the hearing officer’s findings and plans to appeal them to V.I. Superior Court.
The District Court case is still pending. The court had a status conference for the case on Thursday, and progress was made at that hearing to move the case toward trial.
Williams said he feels the District Court case is solid, and he believes that the court will rule in the two companies’ favor.
"What DLCA has done is wholly unconstitutional, and ultimately a violation of the rights of all Virgin Islanders," Williams said.