Liquor panel votes to stream­line rules for non­profit events

The Maui News - - FRONT PAGE - By CHRIS SUGIDONO

Com­mis­sion adopts pro­posal au­thored by Maui County Coun­cil Mem­ber Sugimura

Staff Writer

WAILUKU — The Maui County Liquor Con­trol Com­mis­sion ap­proved stream­lined changes pro­posed by County Coun­cil Mem­ber Yuki Lei Sugimura for sin­gle-event liquor li­cense ap­pli­ca­tions for non­prof­its Wed­nes­day af­ter months of protests and dozens of tes­ti­fiers at the David K. Trask Jr. Build­ing in Wailuku.

The com­mis­sion adopted Sugimura’s pro­posal, as op­posed to ones from the De­part­ment of Liquor Con­trol. Her amend­ments elim­i­nated strin­gent re­quire­ments, such as ap­pli­cants pro­vid­ing per­sonal his­tory state­ments, back­ground checks and So­cial Se­cu­rity numbers, and sub­mit­ting to finger­print­ing. The de­part­ment be­gan en­forc­ing such re­quire­ments for sin­gle-event li­cense ap­pli­ca­tions around May.

Now, of­fi­cers, di­rec­tors, stock­hold­ers and any oth­ers listed on the per­mit ap­pli­ca­tion will only have to sign to at­test that they are at least 21-years-old, not convicted of a felony and have not been par­doned.

“Un­for­tu­nately we had to do this,” Sugimura said af­ter the meet­ing. “Do not crim­i­nal­ize good peo­ple; that’s what brought out the hearts and souls of the com­mu­nity. It’s a good re­sult.”

The com­mis­sion also ap­proved Sugimura’s other pro­posal that sought to al­low Class 10 li­censes — which are is­sued to non­prof­its hold­ing events as well as po­lit­i­cal par­ties and can­di­dates seek­ing pub­lic of­fice — to serve an un­lim­ited amount of liquor dur­ing a set pe­riod of time for a fixed price. The ex­emp­tion al­lows non­prof­its to col­lect an en­trance fee to pri­vate events such as wine pair­ings with­out hav­ing to charge pa­trons for ad­di­tional drinks.

Debbie Cabebe, pres­i­dent of the Maui Non­profit Di­rec­tors As­so­ci­a­tion, said she was grate­ful for the com­mu­nity and work done by Sugimura and Peter Horovitz, a board mem­ber of sev­eral non­prof­its and at­tor­ney for liquor li­censees. Horovitz helped pro­vide his le­gal ex­per­tise for the changes.

“I think that cool minds pre­vailed, and we can get back to ful­fill­ing our mis­sion,” Cabebe said.

De­part­ment of Liquor Con­trol Di­rec­tor Glenn Mukai de­clined com­ment af­ter Wed­nes­day’s meet­ing, say­ing “not at this time.”

No other liquor de­part­ments in the state re­quire strin­gent back­ground checks that the Maui de­part­ment en­forced on all board mem­bers and of­fi­cers of non­prof­its. De­part­ment of­fi­cials had re­peat­edly cited a 2008 change in state law that they claimed re­quired crim­i­nal back­ground checks.

The state De­part­ment of the At­tor­ney Gen­eral told The Maui News in June that coun­ties have the au­thor­ity to im­pose the checks, but they are not re­quired to by state law. A let­ter from Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Lance Goto to Cen­tral Maui Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran last month fur­ther ex­plained how the coun­ties have dis­cre­tion to con­duct the back­ground checks.

It is un­clear whether the de­part­ment con­tacted the AG’s of­fice about clar­i­fi­ca­tion of the rules be­fore im­pos­ing the strin­gent re­quire­ments.

The com­mis­sion also be­gan its an­nual re­view and eval­u­a­tion of the per­for­mance of Mukai. The di­rec­tor was ap­pointed to his post in May 2016 and has drawn sup­port from com­mis­sion Chair­man Bob Tanaka at a pre­vi­ous meet­ing, say­ing that “he’s not do­ing any­thing wrong.”

Mayor Alan Arakawa vis­ited the

com­mis­sion be­hind closed doors to go through the char­ter­man­dated eval­u­a­tion process. Tanaka said the com­mis­sion would dis­cuss its eval­u­a­tion at its meet­ing next month.

“At that time, we’ll come up with a dis­cus­sion of our so­called rec­om­men­da­tions de­pend­ing on the re­sponses that we’ve had and we’re go­ing to re­quest from other peo­ple,” Tanaka said.

About 10 peo­ple tes­ti­fied at Wed­nes­day’s meet­ing, in­clud­ing for­mer Coun­cil Mem­ber Don Couch, who now works in the mayor’s of­fice as an ex­ec­u­tive as­sis­tant. Couch said he voted to ap­prove nearly all of the com­mis­sion­ers dur­ing his time on the coun­cil and put his trust in them.

“I trust that you will do what is right for this com­mu­nity and what is right for the non­prof­its,” he said. “They’ve been do­ing well all th­ese years . . . and I trust that you will give the proper di­rec­tion to the de­part­ment on how to deal with th­ese non­prof­its.”

One tweak the com­mis­sion made to Sugimura’s pro­posal re­moved the words “other gov­ern­men­tal clear­ances” from the non­profit’s spe­cial li­cens­ing re­quire­ments. Com­mis­sion­ers and Deputy Cor­po­ra­tion Coun­sel Ed­ward Kushi Jr. ex­pressed con­cerns that it would cause con­fu­sion and may be mis­in­ter­preted by ap­pli­cants.

Horovitz submitted sug­ges­tions to clar­ify the word­ing and be­lieved it may be­come an is­sue go­ing for­ward. He said that where it “rears its ugly head” is dur­ing fundrais­ing events at pri­vate homes, which have ex­isted for decades, and the liquor de­part­ment asks for a cer­tifi­cate of oc­cu­pancy or other clear­ances not nor­mally han­dled by other county de­part­ments.

“The proof will be in the pud­ding on this,” he said. “We’ll have to see how they choose to en­force it.”

Horovitz said he was pleased the com­mis­sion chose Sugimura’s pro­posal and noted that it would as­sist two large up­com­ing fundrais­ers. Maui Academy of Per­form­ing Arts is host­ing its 29th an­nual Gar­den Party on Oct. 1 and the Pa­cific Can­cer Foun­da­tion is gear­ing up for its Aloha Ka­liki­maka Ben­e­fit Gala on Nov. 18.

Both events raise a third to a half of the groups’ bud­gets and can­cel­la­tions of the events would mean los­ing pro­grams “with­out ques­tion,” Horovitz said.

“There’s prob­a­bly more that needs to be done . . . but I think we’re in a much bet­ter start­ing place than we were be­fore,” he said.

In other li­cens­ing mat­ters, the com­mis­sion ac­cepted pe­ti­tions seek­ing the ex­ten­sion of hours for sale and ser­vice of liquor for man­u­fac­tur­ers and whole­salers, as well as ho­tels and con­do­minium ho­tels.

Greg Ca­bant­ing, Maui branch man­ager of An­heuserBusch Sales of Hawaii, pro­posed the com­mis­sion ex­tend op­er­a­tions one hour ear­lier mak­ing it 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Lisa Paul­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Maui Ho­tel and Lodg­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, pe­ti­tioned to re­move the two-hour black­out win­dow from 4 to 6 a.m.

Both li­cense cat­e­gories had been al­lowed to sell and serve al­co­hol 24-hours when the com­mis­sion orig­i­nally made its con­tro­ver­sial rule change in Fe­bru­ary. Res­i­dents and com­mu­nity groups sought to re­peal 24-hour liquor sales, dis­al­low the sale and de­liv­ery of liquor to pri­vate homes or busi­ness and re­turn the cap of 12 li­censes for host­ess bars.

The com­mis­sion even­tu­ally re­versed its rule changes in July. How­ever, it is un­clear why the hours of oper­a­tion for man­u­fac­tur­ers/whole­salers and ho­tels were re­verted back con­sid­er­ing nei­ther were highly de­bated.

The Maui Beach Ho­tel gained ap­proval for two dis­penser gen­eral li­censes for its up­stairs Rain­bow Din­ing Room and down­stairs ballroom. The ho­tel ex­pected to re­ceive its li­cense by the end of Wed­nes­day.

The 64-year-old ho­tel has op­er­ated un­der tem­po­rary li­censes off and on since los­ing its li­cense for the first time ever in July 2016. About 45 busi­nesses had faced is­sues with ap­pli­ca­tions last year af­ter Mukai took over the de­part­ment.

“We’re all very happy and ex­cited to be able to sell liquor again,” ho­tel at­tor­ney Craig Naka­mura said.

He added that op­er­a­tor David Huang of D.H. In­vest­ment Inc. was “very happy,” and he plans to start a dim sum ser­vice.

Chris Sugidono can be reached at csug­i­dono@mauinews.com.

The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

Maui County Coun­cil Mem­ber Yuki Lei Sugimura tes­ti­fies Wed­nes­day be­fore the Maui County Liquor Con­trol Com­mis­sion. Her pro­posal to elim­i­nate strin­gent ap­pli­ca­tion re­quire­ments for one-day non­profit fundrais­ing events was ap­proved by the com­mis­sion. “Un­for­tu­nately, we had to do this,” she said af­ter the meet­ing. “Do not crim­i­nal­ize good peo­ple; that’s what brought out the hearts and souls of the com­mu­nity. It’s a good re­sult.”

The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

Mem­bers of the pub­lic wait in a crowded meet­ing room Wed­nes­day at the David K. Trask Build­ing in Wailuku to tes­tify be­fore the Maui County Liquor Con­trol Com­mis­sion. About 10 non­profit di­rec­tors and res­i­dents tes­ti­fied, in­clud­ing Nancy LaJoy, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Pa­cific Can­cer Foun­da­tion (speak­ing at the lectern).

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