When you look at a Liquor Control Board of Adjudication hearing agenda and see the words “NO CONTEST” written next to the name of the establishment facing charges, it’s a foregone conclusion that the board will hand down some kind of punishment. I think they gave out a letter of reprimand once in the four years I’ve watched them.
Unlike trials, no contest pleas bring forth a nearly casual routine. The deputy prosecuting attorney outlines the case, the defending establishment says something like “I take the charges very seriously,” then explains what, if anything, they’ve done differently with regards to training employees since the alleged incident occurs. Then the board members ask questions, the prosecution recommends a sentence, and we all walk outside while the board deliberates.
This happened twice at the Nov. 8 hearing—both times to Blue Lagoon in Lahaina (fair disclosure: Blue Lagoon buys advertising in this paper). Pleading no contest to two separate cases (serving a minor and over-serving an adult, both in August 2006), Blue Lagoon’s owner Seth Bruins gave the board a detailed list of training procedures specifically designed to prevent liquor rule violations.
He mounted three cameras over the bar to watch his employees. He requires all employees to get an official LC liquor card within 30 days of hiring on. He offers cab rides to customers who shouldn’t drive home. He posts employees at all entrances, who stop and talk to all customers to ascertain drunkenness. After the August 2006 incidents, he fired seven employees. But most stunning of all, Bruins said he now closes Blue Lagoon at 10 p.m. every night, effectively turning what had been one of Lahaina’s favorite pau hana bars into just another Front Street restaurant.
The board listened to all this, smiled and nodded, then fined Blue Lagoon $4,000, but suspended $2,000 of that if he can prevent further violations for a year.