My father, being something of a cynic, has long observed that, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Gus Hoeft, who runs Hapa’s Nightclub in Kihei, understands this only too well.
On Aug. 4, 2005, Hoeft had to appear before the Maui County Liquor Control Board of Adjudication on three charges of being open after 2 a.m., in defiance of county liquor law. Pleading no contest reduced the case to just two charges, but Hoeft knew they had him.
What happened was simple: Hoeft’s friends and co-workers sprung a surprise birthday party on him on May 28, 2005. Hoeft obviously had no idea it was planned, and by the time he realized it was keeping his place open past county-mandated closing time, it was too late.
Liquor Control Officer John McMurray cracked the case of the illegal surprise party. It wasn’t easy, either—his report made clear the significant risks he took in his quest for justice.
Conducting closing checks on the night in question, McMurray stopped by Hapa’s. There, at approximately 2:30 in the morning, he found a number of off-duty employees and band members sitting around, eating food from take-out containers. McMurray noted that three of the people were drinking beer.
But there was something odd about the whole party. Normally tasked with interviewing all witnesses and taking photographs of everyone involved, McMurray left the party people alone. During the Aug. 4 Adjudication Board hearing, deputy prosecuting attorney Scott Hanano said simply that McMurray didn’t interview witnesses because of “safety concerns.”
“I’m sorry, what was the reason?” asked board member Lance Collins.
Hanano fumbled through McMurray’s report, then explained that the veteran LC officer reported that since the partygoers were all “big local people,” he “felt at risk” if he tried to interview and photograph them.
That brought a hearty laugh from board members and hearing visitors alike. Apparently filled with good cheer—and empathy for the way Hoeft’s birthday turned out—the board rejected the prosecution’s wish for $2,000 in fines and just sentenced Hoeft to a $500 fine and a letter of reprimand.