For a long time, I’ve wondered if the MauiCounty Liquor Control Adjudication Board values big hotel chains over small businesses. At its May 3 hearing, the board provided evidence that I might be right.
On that day, the board slapped a 15-day liquor license suspension on Lahaina’s Paradice Bluz. After the hearing owner Chris Mahon said the sanction would cost him at least $30,000 in lost revenues. He even speculated that the losses might force him to close his three-year-old club.
The LC’s action stems from an incident last August in which a man named David F. Castles had dinner and a couple drinks at the now-defunct Zuihao in Lahaina, then walked with a buddy to Paradice Bluz. There, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Scott Hanano alleged, Castles consumed five gin and waters and another six shots of Jagermeister.
At about 12:40 on the morning of Aug. 11, Castles and his pal left Paradice Bluz. After convincing his buddy that he could drive, Castles drove alone to Kihei. He got as far as South Kihei Road, where he lost control of the car and ran into a tree. Castles died at the scene. An autopsy found no drugs in his system and a blood alcohol content of 0.370.
Paradice Bluz (Disclosure: they buy advertising in this paper) had no prior convictions for overservice, and Mahon said he accepted a plea agreement in which he’d plead no contest in exchange for facing just two counts—serving alcohol to someone under the influence and knowingly permitting a drunk to remain on the premises. Mahon said later that he had no idea he was facing a possible license suspension (typical first time convictions for overservice bring $2,000 fines) and that if he had known, he would have brought in his attorney and pleaded not guilty.
But that doesn’t matter now. Board members seemed most interested in Mahon’s explanation that while he took Castle’s death very seriously, he wasn’t doing anything really different now in terms of training his staff to watch for drunks.
“You have to do something more than what you’re doing,” board member John Urachi told Mahon. “Obviously there’s a crack in your system.”
Mahon still has to work out with the LC when the suspension will take place. But outside the hearing room after Mahon left, I couldn’t help but think about the LC’s ruling back in 2004 in the infamous Hyatt Regency case.
That’s when the Hyatt–a corporate giant worth billions of dollars–faced 25 counts of repeatedly serving minors who partied throughout the Ka`anapali hotel for days, giving alcohol to their friends, including an 18-year-old New Jersey cheerleader who later died after she fell out of their ninth floor room.
After a mere 10-minute deliberation, the Adjudication Board levied $50,000 in fines on the hotel giant but did not suspend its liquor license.