When they’re not scrutinizing local establishment time sheets or trying to grill licensees on why they pled not guilty to some charge against them, your Maui County Department of Liquor Control likes to do a little lobbying in Honolulu.
“Wayne [Pagan] and I went to the legislature to kill some bills,” said Commissioner Joe Tanaka near the end of the March 9, 2005 Liquor Commission hearing, referring to numerous “bad bills” that liquor industry lobbyists were pushing.
One of them would have scrapped all the county LCs in favor of a single, statewide liquor office—similar to that used for many years in California. Tanaka didn’t elaborate on how that particular bill would have been “bad”—beyond removing the need for guys like Tanaka to wear red polo shirts emblazoned with the LC badge.
“Everything came out to our advantage,” said Assistant LC Director Pagan.
Interestingly enough, one of those bills the LC let pass without a fight dealt with the Kahana-based Fish & Game Brewing Co., the only brewpub on Maui. For the last couple years, Fish & Game Brewmaster Tom Kerns has been working on legislation to make it easier for his—and the seven other brewers in Hawai’i—to distribute their beer to other establishments and the general public.
When brewpubs—establishments that actually manufacture their own beer—first became legal in Hawai’i 10 years ago, they lacked certain practices that their mainland counterparts enjoy. Customs, really, like selling beer retail or in two-liter or half-gallon “growlers” to customers for them to take home.
Because of Kerns’ efforts, which required his testimony before numerous state House and Senate committees, those practices are now legal in Hawai’i.
“Initially there was a small amount of resistance from wholesale distributors,” said Kerns. “Distributors used to be against brewpubs doing everything. But we’re a small, locally owned and produced company. We can’t operate on economies of scale.”
Citing a similar case in Oregon, Kerns said that as brewpubs grew, they found their own distribution inadequate for the task at hand and had to bring in wholesale distributors. He said that mollified Hawai’i distributors, who soon ended their opposition.
As for the LC, Kerns said they provided no resistance.
“They were very pleasant about it,” said Kerns. “It wasn’t a problem.”