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Lawsuit Challenges Changes to Maui Liquor Laws

The Committee for Responsible Liquor Control and Kīhei resident Madge Schaefer filed a lawsuit on Friday asking the Second Circuit Court to invalidate the recent actions of the Liquor Control Commission.

The lawsuit called the changes “radical,” and included mention of the recent action to lift time restrictions on the previously enforced 11 p.m. deadline on the sale of alcohol in Maui County.  The changes now allow for the 24-hour retail of liquor sales [1].

The lawsuit also criticizes the elimination of the cap on hostess bars [2]. The maximum number of hostess bar licenses was previously set at twelve [3]

Madge Schaefer. PC: File image Dec. 2015 courtesy Maui County Council/FB.

The lawsuit alleges that the Liquor Commission violated both the Sunshine Law and the Hawai’i Administrative Procedure Act “by failing to give the public proper notice that they were going to take action on these radical policy changes.” The Plaintiffs are being represented by attorney Lance D. Collins.

The challenge is made to the technical requirements for notice. “Notice is important so that it allow interested members of the community to provide their views and data to an agency before an agency, like the Liquor Commission, makes a decision to changes its rules,” Schaefer contends.

“The public should be given the opportunity to know, scrutinize and participate in the formation and conduct of that policy, especially where there are radical changes in community standards and effects on public safety and community well-being,” according to Schaefer.

The claim states that: “Challenges to invalidate agency actions under the Sunshine Law must be filed within 90 days of the date of the decision. The decision was made on Feb. 8, 2017. Because the rule changes have been signed into law, the Liquor Commission does not have the power to invalidate its own rules. It can propose to repeal and replace these invalid rules, but to date, has not published the required 30-day notice signaling its intention to do so.”

Maui Now was unable to reach the Office of Liquor Control at the time of publication.  A request for comment from Maui County Communications Director Rod Antone was declined advising that the county can not comment on any pending litigation.

The Committee for Responsible Liquor Control is made up of individuals who share concerns about various rule changes.  Schaefer is a longtime Kīhei resident active in civic projects.

A coalition formed outside the Queen Kaahumanu Center to repeal Maui’s 24-hour liquor law. MauiNow Photo

There are a number of community groups who have joined together to urge that the 24 hour liquor sales be repealed [4], but are not part of this legal action.  They include SHOPO (State of Hawaiʻi Organization of Police Officers, Maui Chapter), as well as the Coalition to Repeal 24 Hour Alcohol Sales whose membership include MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers), Maui Youth and Family Services, MEO Youth Services, among others.

“It is unfortunate that private citizens have been forced to seek relief through the court system because a public agency has so casually disregarded the people’s right to know,” said Schaefer in an email communication.