In the years we’ve covered the LC, we’ve never seen anyone look happy to appear before the Adjudication Board. But since the recession hit, business owners have been especially jumpy. It’s understandable: the board can revoke a liquor license for any offense. If an establishment is small and relies primarily on alcohol sales, that’s the same as being shut down outright.
Or not, if you believe Adjudication Board Chair Donald Fujii. At the September 3 hearing, the board was considering the case of Pacific Fish Market in Kahului, which was caught in a minor decoy sting on March 29. Representing the company, a store manager told the board that sales have dropped 30-50 percent since the downturn. He said they applied for a liquor license in November 2008 hoping to boost sales, and that by taking it away the LC would, in effect, force them to close.
“We’re not in the business of closing anybody at any time,” Fujii replied.
Whether he was being defensive, reassuring or some combination of the two was unclear. What is clear: that statement shows a total disregard for the power the board wields.
This being a first offense, Pacific Fish Market predictably received a $2,000 fine, $1,000 suspended. But the board does revoke licenses. Most recently, they pulled the plug on Kahului’s Hang Loose Lounge in February. (The place is open again under different ownership.)
Hang Loose was busted three times for selling to a minor decoy. Four strikes in five years triggers an automatic revocation, so the board can’t lean on the “we had no choice” defense.
They could argue Hang Loose deserved it. Some might agree. But they can’t, with a straight face, say they’ve never closed anybody.
Or, apparently, they can. Maui Time Weekly, Jacob Shafer