As a result of two complaint letters written by Maui resident Mahina Martin, the Maui County Liquor Commission held a special hearing on Tuesday, May 9 on their recent liquor rule changes. Though the Commission approved more than two dozen regulation amendments back in February, Martin’s complaints centered on three: the legalization of 24-hour alcohol sales at stores and hotels, home delivery of alcohol and the lifting of the cap on hostess bars.
The meeting agenda made clear that the Commission would take no action at this meeting, but they did take public testimony. By my count 45 residents testified. Many, part of the Coalition to Repeal 24 Hour Alcohol Sales, wore red shirts emblazoned with the words “Say NO to 24 hour liquor sales!!!” They represented virtually every organization in the county that deals with alcohol abuse, and every single one was surprised by the LC’s recent rule changes (some testified that they could find nothing in the public record to explain why the Commission thought it was so important to make these changes. All thought the decisions to allow 24-hour sale of alcohol at stores and lift the cap on hostess bars was outrageous. In fact, there were so many tears that an LC staffer simply placed a box of tissues on the lectern.
“The new law really confuses the children we work with,” said one representative of Maui Family Support Services in regards to allowing 24-hour alcohol sales. “I see no benefit from this law.”
Others testified about how drunk driving had killed their children, how alcoholism had led to domestic abuse. Advocates rattled off statistics about how expanding the sale hours of alcohol leads to greater consumption abuse. Retired Maui PD Captain Charles Hirata told the Commission that allowing 24 hour sales will exacerbate the problems cops already have to deal with. And all that was before retired Maui Mayor Charmaine Tavares spoke.
“I’m totally against this 24 hour sale,” she testified. “This is crazy. If someone wants that, they should move to Las Vegas.”
Tavares also blasted the LC’s lifting of the cap on the number of hostess bars in Maui County, saying that her father (former Mayor Hannibal Tavares) and worked hard in the 1980s to get that cap put in place.
Because the Commission took no action today, they’ll reconvene at their regular meeting tomorrow (Wednesday, May 10) to take the matter up again. Should the Commission decide to revisit any rule changes they made in February, they would have to schedule yet another public hearing.
Click here for the May 10 Liquor Commission meeting agenda.
Photo of Charmaine Tavares testifying: MauiTime