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Home delivery, takeout of liquor is approved

Many testifiers, though, have concerns

Despite the majority of community testimony opposing takeout and home delivery for alcoholic drinks, the county Liquor Control Commission unanimously approved the measures during its meeting Wednesday in a boost for floundering restaurant owners.

The vote aligns with Gov. David Ige’s executive order late last month that allowed establishments with a liquor license to sell unopened beer, wine or prepackaged cocktails during the state’s stay-at-home order. Ige’s order was aimed at bolstering restaurants amid COVID-19 emergency rules that shut down in-person service at bars and restaurants and forced the industry to move to takeout or delivery services.

The liquor commission approved the home delivery of alcohol with the purchase of food. A photo ID must match the purchaser of the liquor when delivered. The photo ID and the sales receipt will be recorded by the licensed establishment for routine liquor department checks. Also, the department will not allow third-party deliveries.

With around 35 attendees at one point, the liquor commission’s online meeting took testimony from community members, most of whom opposed the measures, pointing to higher domestic violence rates during the pandemic, increased risk for minors to obtain alcohol during home delivery and the lack of regulation for third-party delivery systems.

Kihei resident Andrea Snow, who testified for Maui Coalition of Drug Free Youth, said a California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control investigation on home delivery last month showed minors were routinely able to purchase alcohol from restaurants. Rates were even higher when a third-party app helped deliver the drinks.

“Could we prevent this on Maui?” Snow said. “I don’t think that’s likely.”

Establishment owners testified that additional takeout and delivery options would help bring back business during a time when the industry is reeling.

“It’s looking like 40 percent of us are going to fail,” said Mulligans on the Blue owner Michael O’Dwyer, adding that other South Maui establishment owners have discussed the same statistics.

O’Dwyer said Mulligans is closed but could reopen with the takeout and delivery options, which would allow him to rehire workers and utilize Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) federal relief funds.

“If we could do this, it would allow me to hire more employees and reopen and use the PPP for salary wages and health benefits,” he said. “It’s an added incentive for someone to come to my restaurant to buy food if they also knew they could pick up alcohol.”

Garrett Marrero, CEO of Maui Brewing Co., said he has had to furlough about 250 people among his Kihei and Kahana locations. Currently, he is only selling beverages and sanitizers out of his Kihei location.

“We would be able to hire back staff to prepare food to go with delivery,” Marrero said. “PPP requires me to add to payroll. We are in this short window to use PPP funds. If we don’t hire people and put them to work, PPP is pointless.”

Also, industry officials said Maui licensees can have proper controls in place to deliver responsibly. Then buyers will be able to stay home and shelter in place, removing the risk of drunken driving or nonessential travel.

Marrero suggested prohibiting third-party delivery systems and obtaining photos on delivery to verify age of buyer, which he said is being done on Kauai.

“There are absolutely bad operators out there across the board. We’re not saying throw a red Solo cup with a cap and a straw on someone’s doorstep. That would be foolish. That would be irresponsible,” he said. “What we are saying is the sealed containers delivered with food is an option for our local businesses to do it responsibly.”

Still, nonindustry testifiers worried that adding easier access to alcohol would exacerbate domestic violence, mental health and alcohol abuse issues during a time of heightened stress.

“Alcohol is already the most accessible and lethal substance in our community. The question is: Why do we need more? Our stores are still open,” said Kihei resident Ashlee Chapman.

Council Member Tamara Paltin, who holds the West Maui residency seat, said that while businesses may benefit, families will suffer due to increased alcohol access.

“There have been reports of increased domestic violence, increased child abuse. For the sake of our families, I think that the access we have to alcohol right now is good enough,” she said. “If businesses do need to make money, this is not the area to do it in, on the backs of our families.”

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.

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