The prospect of attending a Department of Liquor Control meeting on April Fools’ Day was too tempting to pass up. So even though there were only two cases on the Adjudication docket and I had other work piling up at the office, I trekked over to the David K. Trask Building in Wailuku. Turns out I got to see something I’ve never seen in nearly two years covering the LC—and it happened twice.
The meeting was unusual before it began, in that neither case featured a minor decoy sting. Instead, the Adjudication Board considered a noise complaint against Oceans Bar & Grill in Kihei and an underage-serving charge against Cheeseburger Island Style in Wailea.
First the Oceans case: Seems the bar has been keeping firemen at the Kihei Fire Station awake at night, to the point where they called the LC. According to an account read by Deputy Prosecutor John Tam, LC Officer Chad Gardanier was dispatched to measure noise decibels at the fire station, which is about 200 feet from Oceans. On two separate occasions, the noise level exceeded the allowable limit, which for a Class A zoning district is 45 decibels or three decibels above the ambient noise level (if you’re confused don’t worry—so was the board). The first time, Oceans was warned; the second time, they were cited.
Owner Todd Hull said all the right things. He explained that Oceans now keeps its windows and doors shut during shows and has purchased a sound meter. He was humble and apologetic, and expressed sympathy for the firemen, who he said he “certainly [wasn’t] trying to upset.”
Still, it seemed inevitable he’d be hit with a fine. Even when Tam recommended a written reprimand, I still didn’t think the board would go for it. But—after a relatively brief deliberation—they did. And they weren’t done.
The next case involved two teenage girls who entered Cheeseburger Island Style, located at the Shops at Wailea, and ordered a Shirley Temple and a virgin lava flow. When the drinks arrived, according to Tam’s report, one of the girls thought she tasted booze in her lava flow. She flagged down a waitress and asked for another one. Confusion ensued, and a second drink that may or may not have contained alcohol was brought to the table then quickly taken back, and a virgin drink finally delivered. By this time the first drink had been consumed, though Tam said it wasn’t clear when or by whom.
When their check arrived, the girls were charged for two regular lava flows. Later, the mother of the girl who ordered the drink returned to complain and was given a full refund. Then she contacted the LC.
A lawyer representing the restaurant pinned the blame on the waitress, who he said “pressed the wrong button” when placing the order and ignored protocol when she realized what had happened. He also said she was four months pregnant at the time, but that she was fired anyway.
Cheeseburger Island Style was charged with two counts: serving a minor and failing to properly check ID. This time, Tam recommended a $2,000 fine, $1,000 suspended for the first count, and a $500 fine for the second. The board deliberated, then announced its decision: $2K, $1K suspended for the first, and, you guessed it, a written reprimand for the second.
I wish I could say this unprecedented double-dose of mercy was met by gasps from the gallery, but by that time it was just me and the Cheeseburger Island Style guys, who were quickly heading for the door, presumably before the board could change its mind. I didn’t get a good look, but it appeared one of them was smiling—another first.