By far the one Maui County liquor rule that chafes at local bars and restaurants the most is the prohibition against “over-service.” That’s the ever popular “Thou shalt not serve alcohol to someone who’s already intoxicated.”
Licensees come up with all sorts of excuses why this rule is either unfair or impossible, and some of them make sense. They say some people can mask their drunkenness, making it difficult to tell when it’s time to say when. And they say it’s rare for the LC to present evidence showing conclusively that a customer was actually, undeniably intoxicated when he or she was served.
But except on rare occasions—we’re thinking Moose McGillycuddy’s back in December 2005—the island’s liquor licensees never fight over-service accusations. They bitch and moan in private, but when it comes time to face the Liquor Control Board of Adjudication, they plead No Contest and suck up a fine.
Case in point is the Sly Mongoose. A small, working class bar located in Lahaina’s industrial section, the Goose found itself on the wrong end of an over-service rap back in early 2005 when three of its customers wound up in an automobile accident. One of the passengers, who had a blood alcohol content of 0.19 and wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, died at the scene.
At first, Sly Mongoose owner Hana Rawlings opted to fight the charge. She appeared without an attorney at the August 2005 Adjudication Board hearing pleading Not Guilty to three counts related to the incident. But because the prosecution found itself unprepared to go forward with the case, the board very helpfully gave it a five-month delay. Had Rawlings brought an attorney, she could have forcefully argued that the board was showing preferential treatment to the prosecution and possibly got all the charges thrown out.
As the months ticked by, Rawlings changed her approach. She fired the bartender who had been on duty the night in question and switched to a No Contest plea. But during her Jan. 5, 2006 hearing, she bungled her defense and never told the board she’d fired her bartender—a move the board loves to hear in these types of cases. Probably figuring she wasn’t serious about preventing further trouble, they fined her $2,000.