Liquor Department proposes new rules

Commission to consider them at future public hearing

Liquor Control Commission Chairman Bob Tanaka presides over his last commission meeting on Wednesday. The commission gave the thumbs up for the Liquor Control Department to move forward with new rule changes, which will now have to undergo a public hearing, possibly in May. The commission also honored Tanaka, whose term ends this month, and elected Nane Aluli as chairman. The Maui News / COLLEEN UECHI photo

WAILUKU — The Liquor Control Department is proposing new rules that include allowing dispensers and restaurants to sell liquor for off-premises consumption.

On Wednesday, the Liquor Control Commission voted to let the department move forward with the wide-ranging rules, which must now undergo a public hearing, possibly in May.

One of the main changes would allow dispensers and restaurants to sell liquor for off-premises consumption from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Dispensers and restaurants currently are able to sell liquor from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. the next day.

The changes also would extend hours for manufacturers and wholesalers, which are currently allowed to operate from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Under the new rules, they could deliver at any time of the day. Manufacturers also would be able to sell liquor for on-premises consumption from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. the next day, and liquor for off-premises consumption from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Brewpubs also would be allowed to do business with manufacturers and wholesalers any time of the day under the new rules.

Liquor Control Director Glenn Mukai explained that the changes would “even the playing field” since small craft producer pubs and wineries can already sell liquor for off-premises consumption and do business with manufacturers and wholesalers at all hours.

Other proposed changes also would bring liquor license applications up to speed with state laws, including removing the requirements for state Department of Health and federal tax clearances. They also would do away with the need for a guaranty or bond.

Change of location applications would be easier for cruise ships or tour boats that serve liquor. Under the proposed rules, the director could approve a change of location within the county without a hearing for transient vessel (Class 8) and tour or cruise vessel (Class 9) licenses.

Mukai explained that if big waves were to prevent a ship from docking at Kahului Harbor and the ship wanted to go to Lahaina instead, it wouldn’t make sense for them to come before the commission for a full hearing process.

Another rule change that would bring the county in line with state laws would allow business owners to place their licenses with the commission for “safekeeping” during temporary or permanent closures. The proposed rule change says that if licensees close their business, they must give the commission notice within five days of closing and surrender their license for cancellation. However, they could seek approval ahead of time to place their license with the commission for safekeeping. The commission could not hold the license past June 30, which is when all licenses expire.

“Practically speaking, the safekeeping period is no more than a year,” acting Corporation Counsel Ed Kushi explained.

Under the new rules, reciprocity between counties would end. For example, if somebody came from Honolulu with a certification card, they could not automatically get a certification card from Maui County, as liquor laws between both counties are different, Kushi said.

And, other changes would remove the rule that prevents an establishment from serving more than two drinks of any liquor at one time to a customer. (The rules don’t prevent a person from ordering drinks consecutively, but they cannot order multiple drinks at once.)

“The impetus behind this was wine samplers,” Kushi said. “You go to these brewpubs, and they give you samplers, and they’re very small. But they give you four or five at one time. And the department took the position that each one of them counts toward a maximum of two. So this would eliminate this issue. The alcohol content is still a concern, and again, it doesn’t eliminate the fact that the licensee needs to monitor the customer for over service.”

On Wednesday, the commission also honored departing Chairman Bob Tanaka, whose term ends this month. Tanaka has been one of the commission’s longest serving members, joining in 1983 and serving on and off over the years. Tanaka, a retired Wailuku engineer, said he didn’t plan to serve on any other boards or commissions.

“I’m too old already. They don’t want old futs,” he joked. (When asked if he wanted to provide his age, Tanaka replied, “past 80.”)

Tanaka said the liquor industry has changed a lot over the years. Before it was only retails, dispensers and hotels. Now there are brewpubs, craft beer producers and the possibility of buying liquor on the internet. Laws and enforcement constantly have to change, he said.

The last couple years of Tanaka’s tenure were marked by controversy over rule changes related to 24/7 liquor sales and requirements for nonprofit events. The community criticized the department and the commission for passing the rules with little public notice.

“The commission cannot micromanage the department,” Tanaka said when asked about recent complaints. “We cannot go and tell the director, ‘Hey, you do this, you do that.’ . . . So it’s kind of hard. Depends which side of the fence you sitting on. Sure, you get a lot of licensees (that) are unhappy, so they’re going to grumble all the time. Everybody wants things to be done easily, but you gotta follow the rules.”

The commission elected Nane Aluli as chairman and Roy Umeno as vice chairman.

To view the full list of proposed rule changes, visit mauicounty.gov/1004/RulesLaws.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.

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