More changes sought for single-event liquor licenses

Sugimura, nonprofits: July 12 adjustments don’t go far enough

Maui County Council Member Yuki Lei Sugimura and local nonprofit groups will propose to the Liquor Control Commission next month further changes to single-event liquor license procedures that would streamline the application process to prevent burdensome requirements that threaten the groups’ fundraising events.

The changes the commission made at its meeting July 12 — which were done in response to public outcry that the license procedures were too stringent — do not go far enough, say Sugimura and the Maui Nonprofit Directors Association.

The commission voted to limit the requirement of criminal background checks and providing Social Security numbers and other personal information to just the executive director and a nonprofit officer — instead of all board members; eliminated the submittal of an advance list of auction items, though groups must sign an affidavit stating that no liquor or other prohibited items shall be sold; and allow the nonprofit groups to file their license applications closer to events, going from six weeks to four weeks out.

Sugimura and nonprofit groups plan to send their proposed changes to the commission prior to its Aug. 9 meeting. One change may be to remove the criminal background check provision for the executive director and nonprofit officer in lieu of an affidavit affirming that high-ranking officers of the organizations do not have criminal backgrounds, Debbie Cabebe, president of the Maui Nonprofit Directors Association, said Friday.

While being appreciative of the commission’s willingness to compromise, Cabebe said, “The recent changes to liquor control’s interpretation of the regulations have negatively impacted many of the smaller nonprofits who rely on fundraising as their main source of revenue.

“Nonprofits are told that we must be less dependent on government and find alternate sources of funding. Fundraisers are one of the ways nonprofits can receive self-sufficiency,” said Cabebe, who is the chief executive officer of Maui Economic Opportunity.

Sugimura got involved after receiving calls from nonprofit organizations asking for help, especially with the cumbersome and time-consuming background checks.

“They didn’t want their board members to go through that process,” Sugimura said Friday.

The county Department of Liquor Control and the commission may consider these small matters, but “it’s large enough to stop organizations and nonprofits to proceed on with plans and functions they have been doing for years,” she said.

Sugimura personally has seen the effects of procedural changes implemented earlier this year. As a member of the Maui Memorial Medical Center Foundation board, she said the organization had to change a venue for its fundraiser to avoid the stringent rules.

An original organizer of the Wailuku First Friday town event, she pointed out that the beer garden has not been running because the nonprofits operating it and benefitting from its sales are unable to obtain a one-day special permit. (Sugimura no longer coordinates and runs the event on Market Street, she said).

Officials with the county department could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.

Department officials have said that they are just this year reacting to a 2008 law change that requires the criminal background checks for single-event licenses. None of the other county liquor departments in the state require the background checks for nonprofit groups and the state attorney general has said that county liquor departments have the power and option to order the checks, which are not required by state law.

In other developments, a court hearing has been set for Aug. 8 to hear a motion for summary judgment in a lawsuit filed in May in 2nd Circuit Court over another set of controversial rules involving allowing 24-hour retail liquor sales, removing a cap on the number of hostess bars and allowing liquor to be sold and delivered to private residences or businesses.

The lawsuit was filed by Kihei resident Madge Schaefer and the Committee for Responsible Liquor Control. The commission reversed itself July 12, but Schaefer said Friday that requests for information and responses from the department have not been forthcoming.

The lawsuit was expanded to include the nonprofit single-event licenses. Schaefer said that she has been struggling to obtain information from the department about exactly what changes the commission approved July 12 for those single-event license procedures.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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