There are two main citizen panels that ostensibly run the county’s alcohol operations. The Liquor Commission, which grants liquor licenses, and the Board of Adjudication, which takes away licenses from establishments found guilty of liquor law violations. They both work very fast and, sometimes, at cross purposes.
Take the case of Smiley’s Super Service, which came up before the Liquor Commission on Nov. 8 of this year. The owner of a convenience store in Kahului, Smiley’s appeared before the commission to get its Retail General license transferred from former owner 2 Go Tesoro. Normally a quick, routine thing, the matter got bogged down when Commissioner Curt Morimoto asked Liquor Control Officer Mike Kawagishi—the LC staffer who reports to the commision on new licensees—how many liquor law violations the Tesoro station had racked up during the years.
It turned out the place had never seen any real violations—just some administrative stuff that would have earned them scolding letters—but the question was extraordinary. Clearly, it showed that in all the records and papers handed out to the commissioners before every license applicant appears before the panel, the LC staff doesn’t put in an accounting of any previous violations the establishment might have incurred in the past. It also took LC staff a few minutes get the necessary records to answer Morimoto’s question.
Morimoto’s inquiry was also unique—in fact, in the last couple years I’ve covered the LC, I’m hard-pressed to think of another time when commissioners wanted to delve into an applicant’s past transgressions. Most of the time, the two public hearings all licensee applicants have to go through are quick affairs taking just a few minutes.
This raises a fascinating paradox of a county quick to hand out liquor licenses and even quicker to slap them down or even take them away. But that’s the Maui LC for you.