‘You May Appeal’

Opening arguments begin this week in the case of Maui Dance Advocates vs. the Liquor Commission of the County of Maui. At issue: the commission’s April 11, 2007 decision not to liberalize the county’s rules restricting dancing in bars, restaurants and nightclubs. “You may appeal this decision,” LC Director Franklyn Silva wrote Ramoda Anand, the president of Maui Dance Advocates—a small citizen’s group—on April 16.

Court filings show Anand—a Maui Community College student afflicted with Cerebral Palsy—and his group believe the LC’s rule on dance, which mandates that dancing take place outside a club’s specially marked dance floor, is “overly broad and vague” and, in fact, violate both the U.S. and Hawai`i constitutions. The rule, according to a brief filed by Lance Collins, the Maui Dance Advocates attorney and former LC Adjudication Board member, allows “the liquor inspectors unbridled discretion to pick out who can and cannot move their bodies, or alternatively, chill all expression by fearful liquor licensees.”

But Collins will not have an easy time in court. That’s because county attorneys have decided on a slightly Machiavellian tactic: that there’s no case because Silva didn’t know what he was talking about.

“[T]he Director of the Department of Liquor control erroneously advised Appellants that they could ‘appeal this decision in accordance with Section 91-14(b) of the Hawaii Revised Statutes,’” county attorneys Brian T. Moto and Jane E. Lovell wrote in a court filing. “[T]he Liquor Commission decision not to amend its rule was not appealable… because that statute only allows appeals from ‘contested cases.’”

What’s more, the county says that even if there is a case—meaning that there is a “constitutional right to dance”–then the LC is still free to restrict it. “[T]he right to freedom of expression is subject to reasonable restrictions on time, place, and manner,” Moto and Lovell wrote.

Anyway, the music starts in Judge Joseph Cardoza’s courtroom on Wednesday, Nov. 28 at 8:30 a.m.