Last week we started to tell you about a new development that could lead to changes in the way the LC operates. Then the bottom of the column arrived, necessitating a minor cliffhanger.
So. Here’s the scoop, which was brought to our attention by Maui attorney Ben Lowenthal’s blog (http://hawaiiopinions.blogspot.com): An Oahu establishment called E&J Lounge was recently denied a liquor license by the Honolulu LC. E&J appealed the decision to the circuit court, claiming the LC had violated part of the Hawaii Administrative Procedures Act (HAPA). The exact details of the alleged violation are less important than one key definition: “contested case.” Based on legal precedent cited on Lowenthal’s blog, a contested case has to be required by law and has to determine “the rights, duties, or privileges of specific parties.”
In the end, the Hawaii Supreme Court found that that the LC’s denial was in fact a contested case and, this is the important part, judicial review was warranted. What does that mean in layman’s terms? Essentially, the courts can now in theory start peering over the LC’s shoulder. Which is good.
Now, to dampen the excitement just a tad: All this is obviously more complicated than can be expressed in a few paragraphs (check out Lowenthal’s entry for a more complete explanation augmented by the requisite legalese). And even if it were as simple as it sounds, it’s not as if the LC is suddenly going to have its hands tied. The court’s ability to review, much less overturn, decisions will undoubtedly be limited.
But…it’s a start. And it should make for some interesting developments going forward. The next time the LC denies a license the establishment in question could have the right to a day in court.
We’ll keep you posted.