Victims of circumstance

The slant of this column is obvious. But just because we go after the Department of Liquor Control doesn’t mean the people they regulate and punish are always innocent; often they aren’t.

Many of the bars and restaurants that get called before the Adjudication Board did indeed screw up. Sometimes the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, and sometimes the “crime” itself is questionable. But on the whole, plenty of establishments shuffle guiltily under the LC’s admonishing glare. 

All that being said, it was hard not to feel genuinely sorry for the small, soft-spoken co-owner of Unisan in Wailuku, who faced the board on charges of selling to a minor decoy.

With her limited English—which necessitated the help of an interpreter—she explained what happened: On June 1, 2008, her restaurant was in the midst of throwing a party in conjunction with Kahului-based promoters All Access Entertainment when her husband had to leave because of a family issue. That’s when an LC minor decoy entered the restaurant and ordered a beer—and all heck broke loose. 

As soon as the sting was revealed, the bartender who served the beer reportedly flew off the handle, shouting “Eff the LC!” (at least that’s how it was repeated at the hearing) and storming out. 

Adding insult to injury, Unisan’s owner said they later discovered the bartender had been skimming money off the register. And the All Access guys—who were responsible for checking IDs and strapping on wristbands at the door—got off scot-free.

Sure, responsibility ultimately rests with the venue. But a less harsh view is that the Unisan folks were victims of circumstance. Now, they say, they think twice about having big parties and even check the IDs of the senior citizens who show up for kachi-kachi night. Better safe than sorry.