During their Dec. 12, 2007 hearing the Maui County Liquor Commission made the mighty Maui Land & Pineapple Company buy a metal shipping container. It’s for the new Hawaiian Islands Spirits (HIS) operation in Kahului that would distill some of ML&P’s hundreds of thousands of gallons of pineapple juice they don’t otherwise know what to do with into vodka and, possibly, industrial alcohol.
Though the commission granted HIS a license back in July, problems arose when LC officer Michael Kawagishi recently visited the company warehouse for a final inspection. There, instead of the nice big office and lab—housed in a building—that appeared on the commission-approved floor plan, he found an operation that resembled a backyard still, secured behind nothing more daunting than a 10-foot chain-link fence.
“It would have been very easy for me to climb in,” Kawagishi told the commissioners. “[I] never found the gate locked. [There was] very little, if any, security.”
Kawagishi and LC Director Franklyn Silva recommended disapproval of the HIS liquor license because the company’s operation was so different than what they originally proposed to the commission.
In response, HIS manager Bob Gunter told commissioners that he was confident in his ability to keep the place secure, was only running a “pilot project” that would produce just 12 cases of booze a day and, if forced, would put a big, lockable container on-site to hold the finished product at night. Besides, he and his attorney said, protecting the booze wasn’t the commission’s responsibility.
The commissioners went back and forth on that one. Some, like Arsene “Blackie” Gadarian, favored immediate approval, saying it was far easier to break into a liquor distributor than the HIS operation. Others, like Ron McComber, said product safety “should be our concern.”
We try not to tell licensees how to run their businesses, Silva gently told the commissioners, though they probably missed the irony of the statement. In any case, the commission approved the new HIS floor plan with the proviso that the company lock up their booze in a shipping container.