Most people would agree that it’s reasonable to expect from the citizens who make up the county’s myriad boards and commissions some kind of specialized knowledge about the board or commission they end up serving. For planning commissioners, we want to see a familiarity with the arcane and technical language of environmental impact statements. In a cultural resources commissioner, we hope to find a love and appreciation for Hawaiian antiquities.
Likewise, we want our Liquor Commissioners and Adjudication Board members to, even if they don’t imbibe intoxicants, to have some familiarity with the business of buying and selling alcohol. Otherwise, how could the various individuals tasked with granting liquor licenses and sanctioning violations carry out their responsibilities fairly?
It’s an understandable, though completely naive view. I’ve sat through dozens of Liquor Commission and Adjudication Board hearings, and have rarely seen panelists offer unique, studied knowledge of the industry they regulate. Exchanges like the following, which took place Dec. 7 between Adjudication Board member Joe Tanaka and Henry’s Bar &Grill owner Sean McDaniel, are not as rare as you might think:
TANAKA: What’s a shot of Jager?
MCDANIEL: It tastes like cough syrup to me. It’s an herbal liqueur.
TANAKA: Is there alcohol in it?
Tanaka, it has to be said, isn’t exactly a rookie around the LC offices. Though his appointment to the Adjudication Board came just a few months ago—he replaced Lance Collins after the whole County Council candidate controversy blew over—Tanaka previously spent five years on the Liquor Commission.