Full slate of liquor li­cense changes on agenda

Com­mis­sion to take up slew of rule change pro­pos­als Wed­nes­day

The Maui News - - FRONT PAGE - By COLLEEN UECHI

Staff Writer

The Depart­ment of Liquor Con­trol is propos­ing rule changes that in­clude fewer re­quire­ments for non­profit spe­cial events and al­low­ing res­tau­rants to ap­ply for liquor li­censes be­fore they open.

The liquor com­mis­sion will take up the changes dur­ing a pub­lic hear­ing at 10 a.m. Wed­nes­day at the Depart­ment of Liquor Con­trol’s con­fer­ence room, 2145 Kaohu St., Room 108.

One of the changes would al­low restau­rant own­ers to ap­ply for liquor li­censes be­fore they open. Pre­vi­ously, res­tau­rants had to ap­ply for a gen­eral dis­penser li­cense and show that at least 30 per­cent of their gross rev­enue came from food sales dur­ing the first year, Liquor Con­trol Direc­tor Glenn Mukai said dur­ing a com­mis­sion meet­ing on Oct. 5.

With the changes, ap­pli­cants could re­ceive Class 2 restau­rant li­censes if they pro­duce an af­fi­davit stat­ing that at least 30 per­cent of the es­tab­lish­ment’s rev­enue will come from food sales. They also would have to sub­mit monthly re­ports on food and liquor rev­enues through­out the first year.

The new rules also would al­low a restau­rant li­cense to be trans­ferred to an­other ap­pli­cant tak­ing over the same lo­ca­tion. The new owner also must agree to bring in at least 30 per­cent of gross rev­enue from food sales and sub­mit monthly re­ports on food and liquor rev­enues.

“I think they’re both good rules, ac­tu­ally,” Josh Phillips, gen­eral man­ager at Cap­tain Jack’s Is­land Grill in La­haina, said Thurs­day. “If you have your ducks in a row and you’re ready to open up a restau­rant, . . . there should be no rea­son why you shouldn’t be able to ac­quire the per­mit be­fore.”

Phillips said the change to al­low per­mit trans­fers also makes sense, be­cause “it makes sales of res­tau­rants go a lot smoother as far as the changeover process.”

Cur­rently, a busi­ness owner who takes over a restau­rant has to ap­ply for new per­mits, he said.

Other rule changes could cre­ate a lot less pa­per­work for non­prof­its plan­ning spe­cial events.

The com­mis­sion agreed to ease the rules last year af­ter some non­prof­its com­plained that depart­ment re­quire­ments for spe­cial li­censes were too strict — in­clud­ing re­quir­ing board mem­bers to list all em­ploy­ment since age 18 and any traf­fic tick­ets of more than $25, as well as un­dergo a back­ground check and fin­ger­print­ing.

The depart­ment’s new rules for Class 10 spe­cial li­censes al­low the com­mis­sion to “waive any hear­ings, fees, no­ta­riza­tion of doc­u­ments, sub­mis­sion of floor plans and other re­quire­ments.” The spe­cial li­cense would al­low fundrais­ing events to auc­tion liquor in sealed or cov­ered glass, ce­ramic or metal con­tain­ers, or ser­vices that pro­vide liquor.

No back­ground check would be re­quired, though non­profit ap­pli­cants would have to pro­vide a cur­rent list of of­fi­cers and di­rec­tors. Proof of liquor li­a­bil­ity in­sur­ance also would be re­quired un­less waived by the com­mis­sion.

Non­prof­its could ask the com­mis­sion to waive re­quire­ments for tem­po­rary li­censes that would cover liquor sales at one-day fundrais­ing events. No crim­i­nal his­tory record checks would be re­quired for a tem­po­rary per­mit.

Changes to other li­cense cat­e­gories in­clude:

≤ Class 4 re­tail dealer li­censees would be al­lowed to sell up to one half-gal­lon of beer, malt bev­er­ages or cider in sealed con­tain­ers pro­vided by the pa­tron. Cur­rent rules do not spec­ify the ca­pac­ity of bev­er­ages that re­tail deal­ers can sell.

≤ Class 14 brew­pub and Class 18 small craft pro­ducer

pubs would be al­lowed to have mi­nors on the premises, so long as they were ac­com­pa­nied by a par­ent or le­gal guardian.

Other pro­posed changes would elim­i­nate the need for fed­eral tax clear­ance for liquor li­cense ap­pli­ca­tions and re­newals. Only state tax clear­ance would be re­quired.

Liquor li­censes will not be is­sued to mi­nors, any per­son who has been con­victed of a felony and not par­doned, or any other per­son the com­mis­sion does not deem fit for a li­cense. The rules also state that li­censes can­not be is­sued “to any part­ner in a part­ner­ship, or a cor­po­ra­tion, trust or as­so­ci­a­tion, the of­fi­cers, di­rec­tors or any other per­son of which, or any of them, would be dis­qual­i­fied” un­der the rules.

Pro­posed changes add that when it comes to “pub­licly traded com­pa­nies or en­ti­ties ul­ti­mately solely owned by a pub­licly traded com­pany, only the of­fi­cers and di­rec­tors des­ig­nated as pri­mary de­ci­sion mak­ers

shall be con­sid­ered to de­ter­mine dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion.”

Liquor rules have stirred con­tro­versy over the past two years, as com­mu­nity mem­bers and non­prof­its have protested rules that in­cluded 24-hour al­co­hol sales and re­quire­ments for spe­cial events. Com­mu­nity mem­bers also have com­plained that the com­mis­sion has failed to prop­erly no­tify the pub­lic be­fore mak­ing ma­jor changes.

Coun­cil mem­bers called for more over­sight of the depart­ment and com­mis­sion Mon­day fol­low­ing the re­lease of an au­dit that was crit­i­cal of the depart­ment and com­mis­sion. The au­dit’s 54 rec­om­men­da­tions in­cluded hav­ing the mayor and coun­cil con­duct an an­nual re­view of the com­mis­sion, hold­ing Sun­shine Law train­ing for liquor com­mis­sion­ers and up­dat­ing the depart­ment’s op­er­a­tions man­ual.

Coun­cil Mem­ber Don Guz­man said Thurs­day that he hoped the depart­ment and

com­mis­sion would bring the changes to the coun­cil for re­view, even though it’s not re­quired to do so, given that so many changes are be­ing pro­posed.

“In my mind, one pub­lic hear­ing isn’t enough,” Guz­man said. “They need to go through the whole gamut of al­low­ing the coun­cil to look at some of the poli­cies and rule changes they’re propos­ing.”

The liquor depart­ment sets pol­icy for the depart­ment, in­de­pen­dent of the mayor and County Coun­cil. The mayor and coun­cil nom­i­nate and ap­prove com­mis­sion mem­bers.

A ques­tion to the depart­ment on Thurs­day was an­swered with an emailed state­ment say­ing that the pro­posed rules are due to changes at the state level and di­rect­ing The Maui News to the min­utes of an Oct. 5 com­mis­sion meet­ing.

Colleen Uechi can be reached at [email protected]

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