WAILUKU - The Maui County Liquor Control Commission on Wednesday voted down a proposal to exclude hotel and condominium hotel liquor licensees from a law allowing customers to bring their own bottle of wine to restaurants to consume with meals.
The unanimous decision by the seven commissioners at the meeting leaves in place the current law, enacted in March. It gives restaurants with liquor licenses the option to charge a corkage fee to allow customers to "bring wine onto the premise for consumption with a meal."
A petition to repeal the law, backed by some well-known restauranteurs, failed to get a majority vote at the commission's meeting last month. But commissioners did approve a request for the Department of Liquor Control to draft a proposed amendment to the law to exclude hotel and hotel condominium licensees.
On Wednesday, Carol Reimann, executive director of the Maui Hotel & Lodging Association, noted that 38 people representing at least 13 businesses testified in favor of a repeal at last month's meeting, while seven people representing two businesses favored keeping the law in place.
Some of those testifying were restaurant employees who said their tips and incomes would be affected if more customers brought their own wine.
While thanking the commission for the special consideration for hotels and hotel condominiums, Reimann asked that "restaurants and hotels be treated the same."
"We feel that hotels and restaurants operate as like businesses in terms of wine being served," Reimann said.
She said many restaurants are on hotel properties, some with their own liquor licenses.
"How could we expect a guest to understand the difference between an independently owned restaurant and a hotel-owned restaurant?" Reimann asked.
Instead of the law allowing corkage, she suggested an option for customers to obtain a permit if they want to bring "one special bottle of wine" to consume with their meal.
Commissioner Lee Ohigashi said the commission asked for the proposal to exempt hotels based on testimony by major hotels that, because of the corkage law, were under pressure to accommodate outside bottles of wine for large banquets.
"Apparently, the hotel association is now saying they don't want to be treated any differently," Ohigashi said in making a motion to file or not proceed with the amendment. "They want to be treated the same. So it doesn't make sense for us to go forward."
Department of Liquor Control Director Franklyn Silva said he thought the intent of the hotel association letter was the opposite of what Ohigashi proposed.
Ohigashi said the commission had already decided to deny the petition to repeal the corkage rule. He said the amendment was drafted as a way of accommodating Commissioner William Kennison's arguments that the law put hotels in a bad position.
"But apparently, the hotel association says all or nothing," Ohigashi said.
Kennison and Commissioner Mary-Doreen Alborano weren't present at the meeting Wednesday.
Voting against the amendment along with Ohigashi were Commission Chairman James Gomes, Vice Chairwoman Monica Revells and Commissioners Zachary Paz, Frank Sylva, Henry Kauka Jr. and Neldon Mamuad.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at email@example.com.