The Maui County Liquor Control Adjudication Board had been deliberating for about 20 minutes when the people outside the hearing room began to fear the worst. “How long do they normally take?” one woman asked. Off to the side, Ronald Panzo—managing partner of Lulu’s in Kihei—stood silently and waited. If he was nervous, he didn’t show it.
At first, there had been reason to be hopeful. Yes, Lulu’s was up on a charge of serving a minor—stung in an LC minor decoy operation last July. The 19-year-old decoy employed by the LC had gone up to the bar and ordered a bottle of Corona, which the Lulu’s bartender had dutifully served her. He’d never even asked to see her ID.
But Panzo pled no contest. While speaking before the board, he made no excuses and did not dispute any of the evidence against him.
“We take it very seriously,” he told the board. Panzo explained how his bartender was an “outstanding” employee, but he had violated the bar’s policy of checking the ID of everyone who looked less than 30. For that reason, Panzo said, he had fired the bartender.
“We had to set an example,” he told the board.
Panzo added that Lulu’s now cards everyone who wants a drink, regardless of apparent age. He also said he’s in the process of getting his employees special training.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Evans Smith had asked the board for just a $2,000 fine. But he also noted that this was Lulu’s second violation for serving a minor in five years, meaning the fine was the minimum punishment the board could hand down.
The board usually took between five and 10 minutes to deliberate cases like this. In this case, they took nearly 30.
Citing the previous conviction, Adjudication Board Chairman Donald Fujii told Panzo that his liquor license would be suspended for “seven consecutive days.” The LC has yet to say when that suspension will take place.