Liquor Commission Moves to End 24/7 Liquor Sales

PC: Mahina Martin
In a unanimous vote, the Maui Liquor Commission voted today to nix 24-hour liquor sales, cap the number of hostess bars at 12, and prohibit the delivery of liquor to businesses and residences. Voting unanimously were members of the Liquor Commission including Chairman Robert Tanaka and members Leon Bolosan, Dana Souza, Darren Lopez, Nicole DeRego, Dawn Bicoy, Nane Aluli and Brenda Lee.

Also present to hear public testimony were Maui County Department of Liquor Control executives Glenn Mukai- Director and Mark Honda – deputy director, Kari Yoshizawa- chief investigator and attorney Edward Kushi from the Office of Corporation Counsel.

The action taken at the regular July 12 meeting of the Liquor Commission held at the David Trask Building in Wailuku. The move to put things back the way they used to be, came after public outcry resulting from a recent prior rule change that allowed the sale of alcohol 24/7, lifted the cap on bars offering female companionship and authorized home delivery of alcoholic beverages. Every seat in the small conference room was filled and many others waited outside.

New hours for retail liquor sales are 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. There are hour changes in other categories including dispensers, restaurants, clubs, transient vessels, tour or cruise vessels, and specials; cabarets; hotels and condominium hotels; manufacturers and wholesalers; brewpubs; small craft producer pubs; caterers; wineries.

The vote came after public testimony recapping objections on the three key points. Also on hand were more than 20 students from the MEO summer youth program who carried signs and gave testimony in opposition to round-the-clock alcohol sales.

Community activist Mahina Martin, who led the drive to roll back, was pleased with the outcome and called it an “exciting day”.

“It allows us to get back to where we were, to set the course straight”. She said the vote was a “win for the community” and a demonstration that people would show up to make their feelings known about important issues.

Despite the outcome, Kihei resident Madge Schaefer said she intends to continue to pursue legal action now pending in court: “You can’t repeal rules that were illegally adopted in violation of the sunshine law,” she commented.

And at the other extreme- Harsh new liquor rules for non-profit organizations
In other action, the commission heard extensive testimony opposing new regulation that imposed excessive, costly and burdensome demands on non-profit organizations hosting one-day fundraising events where alcohol is served.

The new rules for nonprofits cover what is termed a “one-day special class 10 license.” The changes include required fingerprinting of all staff, board members, and volunteers, and work history dating back to the age of 18. Likewise, staff, board, and volunteers are required to give notice of all traffic violations in excess of $25, also dating back to the age of 18.

Representatives from more than a dozen non-profits as diverse as the VFW, St. John’s Episcopal Church and Na Hale O Maui all testified that these regulations were unnecessary, uncalled for and effectively stifled their ability to carry fundraising events where alcoholic beverages were served in conjunction with a meal or special event. Many noted that they had already been forced to cancel events projected for the Fall due to the harsh rules and associated costs.

The non-profits repeatedly called upon the commission and staff to seek outside counsel including an opinion from the state attorney general and urged them to do it “rapidly” as they could not afford to wait “a year or two.” Harlan Hughes, who put his objections in a letter also testified in person that he had participated in events “for 31 years without an incident,” and like others could see no purpose or reason for the new regulations. Others termed it “a solution for which there was no problem.”

As for the non-profits, while no one could explain why the rules had been revised in such a draconian fashion, all who testified agreed that the new requirements “turn people off big time.” They reminded the commissioners that their boards are composed of volunteers who serve without compensation and could see no reason why employees, board members or volunteers should have to provide fingerprints much less work histories that dated back as much as 50 years (“No gaps please”).

Chairman Tanaka said the commission would consider the testimony that had been given relating to the non-profit rule changes but did not give a projected date for when this matter would be considered.

In her final testimony of the day, Mahina Martin urged the commission to remember that the hours they selected for the meeting (early in the morning on a work day) and the place they selected to gather (a conference room that seated about twenty and had extremely limited parking) was not conducive to public participation. She requested in the future that when issues of wide concern come before them they take the ability of the community to participate into consideration when scheduling the time and place.

Following the session, she was asked by MAUIWatch if it was time for some new faces at Liquor Control? “I’ll have to leave that to the Liquor Commission.” she replied.

At the end of the day, there was still no explanation on why it should take massive community action to fight back against regulations that were too lenient on one hand and too harsh on the other.

7/13/17 Update: Liquor Commission makes some revisions to non-profit rules

In a continuation of their July 12 meeting the Maui County Liquor Commission voted unanimously to make a number of changes to the rules for non-profit organizations seeking a one day permit to serve alcohol at a fundraising event. These changes are subject to legal review

The changes are:

* Reduces the number of people who need to be fingerprinted and submit comprehensive work histories from all staff, board and volunteers to two people- the executive director and one board member. These two must still be fingerprinted and submit work histories dating back to the age of 18 with no gaps.

*Removed the requirement that the organizations submit a list of silent auction items to the agency in advance for review, and substituted the requirement that they submit an affidavit that will not be offering any illegal or prohibited items.

* Shortened the advance time that the application must be received from six weeks to four weeks.

Commenting on the action this morning Debbie Cabebe, CEO of MauiEconomic Opportunity, Inc. and president of the Maui Non Profit Directors Organization said their group is meeting today to review the action taken yesterday and to continue to seek relief from what are still viewed as burdensome rules.

Cabebe said that a number of lawyers who serve as board members are assisting in these efforts. It is their view that although the existing law under which nonprofit applications were handled was repealed in 2008, virtually all of its provisions were transferred to other sections of the applicable regulations. They feel there is actually no need for new legislation, or new rules.The nonprofits urged the Liquor Commission to seek an opinion form the State Attorney General’s office and may also seek such an opinion directly. They are also considering legislative action in the 2018 session of the Hawaii State Legislature that would clarify the procedure.

*This story has been updated

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About Susan Halas

Susan Halas is a Senior Political Contributor at MAUIWatch. She has followed Hawaii politics since 1976 when she moved to the Valley Isle. She was formerly a staff writer for the Maui News as well as other local print and digital publications.

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