VIDEO: Liquor Commission Votes to Revisit Maui Liquor Laws

May 10, 2017, 5:09 PM HST · Updated May 11, 10:51 AM
Wendy Osher · 3 Comments
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The Maui Liquor Commission took action today, allowing for a 30-day period to inform the public that they’ll be taking the proposed changes to the existing rules back to the public for consideration.

The decision comes following yesterday’s special meeting, in which members reviewed a request for a repeal of amendments that resulted in three new laws for Maui.  In February, the commission voted for and the mayor signed into law measures that: lift the 12 establishment cap on hostess bars; allow for the 24-hour sale of alcohol at retail establishments; and create a market for the home delivery of alcohol in the county.

The meeting was prompted by two letters to the commission from resident Mahina Martin, who argued that the items were allowed to pass without input from many of those affected by the changes.

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“The commission voted to procedurally allow for the process to continue–which is a good thing,” Martin said in an interview with Maui Now.  ” What we need to be concerned about is that the prolonging of the rules in existence, means that operations will continue for retail stores 24-hours will occur, driving up the odds of more incidents.  It also allows for hostess bar licenses to be considered.”

Martin said that what she had asked the commission to do was to accelerate their decision today, and find a way to address it sooner.  “I am concerned that if that continues to prolong and they are still unsure on what the outcome will be–that the community will feel as though it was disregarded, that all the heartfelt stories of the tragedies of parents losing their kids in drunk driving incidents–all those traumatic stories that were shared yesterday, would just be disregarded.  I think it would behoove the commission and it would be helpful to the community if the commission took the leadership stance today, and did whatever it could to make the changes sooner rather than later,” Martin told Maui Now.

Despite the public coming out yesterday and sharing personal stories, Martin said, “We will need the public to again return to the commission to share their stories once again to ensure that the commission will follow through on what the public is asking and not revert back to staying with the rules as is.”

Martin said she believes the commission has a difficult job ahead of them.  “They have to weigh all of the tremendous stories that they heard yesterday–and some of them are very, very tragic–and weigh it against any rules and regulations that they must fulfill… It’s my hope that the nine members on this liquor commission will be a member of our community and give value to the voice of those that came yesterday, and not wait the full 30-days to decide that it does matter what they do; and give us a chance to go back to the original rules and keep our public safer,” said Martin.

During her address before the commission today, Martin asked about the perceived lack of information surrounding their earlier decision to allow for the rule changes saying, “If there is a wall of secrecy that the public is not allowed to understand; or if the department or the commission feels that we are just not smart enough to get it, then I ask you to share that because I will tell you that the community is so hungry for understanding on why.  And if there was a reasonable why, and each of you, behind your own personal name can stand by that, then these are your neighbors.  These are your friends and family.”

“From the get-go,” Martin said, she has been asking what the reasons are behind the amendments.  “I’m more than willing to understand.  Are sales down? Is that what’s pushing it? Are businesses negatively impacted? Is the visitor industry telling us that tourism will decline because our visitors can not get alcohol in the late hours? Are there a number of hotel employees that have done what I have done and petitioned you asking for amendments to the rules?”

She continued saying, “Are the hostess bar owners, even though there’s no cap being reached of 12, and no waiting list so I’ve been told from the 1980s–is there a special interest within the hostess bar industry that has a need greater than all the stories of the parents who’ve buried their children, of therapists who work with the addicted, of people in recovery in our community?  Who exactly and what exactly drove the amendments?”

“We were talking about July being the anniversary of the death of the young boy that Mrs. (Andrea) Maniago talked about yesterday.  It is our hope that if this was postponed as far back as July, that we are not celebrating that anniversary of the death of that young teenager as a result of a drunk driving incident, to be before you again,” Martin told commissioners today.

Maniago explained that in 2009, she lost her son to a drunk driver, saying it has resulted in a domino effect.  “It’s hit my family really hard.  We struggle with his loss everyday, but it doesn’t get easier, but I try to be active and try to help bring awareness to it,” said Maniago, who speaks at DUI classes, and to teens at area schools,” Maniago told Maui Now.

“We know with something like this, if there is a 24-hour liquor sales (law), I’m just afraid that I’m going to lose another family member to it,” said Maniago.

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    Those against the rule changes stood outside of the Liquor Commission meeting while members were in executive session today. PC: 5.10.17 by Wendy Osher.

    Maui resident, Mahina Martin addresses members of the Maui Liquor Commission during their regular meeting on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. PC: 5.10.17 by Wendy Osher.

    Liquor commissioners discuss proposed rule changes at their regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. PC: 5.10.17 by Wendy Osher.

    Liquor commissioners discuss proposed rule changes at their regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. PC: 5.10.17 by Wendy Osher.

    Liquor Commission special meeting. PC: 5.9.17 by Wendy Osher.

    Wendy Osher
    Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served nearly 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.

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