CITY & COUNTYCouncil puts cork
in Hawaii Theatre
Theater officials had hoped
to sell drinks at the park next door
to make extra money
Council OK's nature park purchaseBy Gordon Y.K. Pang
Hawaii Theatre officials were hoping to make a little extra money by selling alcohol next door at Chinatown Gateway Park.
But the City Council yesterdaydefeated the measure by a 5-4 decision.
The theater currently sells alcohol at shows that must be consumed in the lobby. Officials for the nonprofit organization estimated that expanding the service to the tiny park at Hotel and Bethel streets would have netted about $15,000 annually.
But a majority of Council members said they would be sending the wrong message by allowing drinking at one park for the benefit of one organization.
"We should not create a policy that favors a single entity," said Councilman John DeSoto, who has historically fought allowing alcohol at city venues.
Council Chairman Mufi Hannemann noted that the Council nixed a bill what would have allowed drinking at Hans L'Orange Field, a plan that would have given a financial boost to the now-inactive Winter Baseball League.
"A park is a park is a park," Hannemann said.
Councilwoman Rene Mansho, who introduced the bill to allow the liquor sales, said Chinatown Gateway Park is different from others because it "isn't a park where people are recreating."
"We're not setting an islandwide, all-parks policy here," said Councilman Jon Yoshimura, who represents the downtown area. He argued that "Hawaii Theatre is a key part of our efforts to revitalize downtown."
Members Duke Bainum and John Henry Felix joined Mansho and Yoshimura in voting for the bill. Steve Holmes, Donna Kim and Andy Mirikitani joined DeSoto and Hannemann in opposing the measure.
Yoshimura said alcohol is allowed in other city venues -- including the courtyard of Honolulu Hale during the annual Taste of Honolulu festival.
The city has an official policy allowing nonprofit groups such as the Easter Seal Society of Hawaii to charge admission onto city's civic center grounds.
The City Council yesterday voted 9-0 to charge charities a 10 percent take of admission proceeds or $3,500, whichever is greater for "major" events.
The nonprofit group would also need to pay $200 more in administrative fees.
Council Chairman Mufi Hannemann raised the need for a policy after Easter Seal charged admission to its Taste of Honolulu event for the first time last year.
Hannemann said his office received a number of calls and letters questioning the legality of assessing a fee to enter public grounds.
Under the bill approved yesterday, people would be allowed free access to Honolulu Hale, the parking lot or other public facilities on the grounds.
Nonprofits holding a "minor" event would need only pay for a $100 permit. A minor event is defined as one with no more than 25 participants, lasting under three hours, not charging admission and not requiring temporary structures or sound amplification.
Revenues collected from the new policy will go toward paying off the city Honolulu City Lights program.
Council OKs bills to buyBy Gordon Y.K. Pang
land for nature park
Bills clearing the way for the city to purchase 94.7 acres for creation of the Aina Haina Nature Preserve in Wailupe Valley have been approved by the City Council despite opposition.
The Council voted 7-2 to use up to $5 million in borrowed money for the purchase of lands city tax assessors say have a combined value of $466,000.
Dissenting Council members Jon Yoshimura and Duke Bainum called the proposed purchase a "bailout" for developer National Housing Corp. and landowner Volumes Co.
Those favoring the purchase, however, said they wanted to avoid litigation and create new park land.
Lorrie Stone, attorney for the developer and landowner, said the city acted incorrectly when it denied her clients' request to build a cemetery on the two parcels.
Stone said that without a reasonable return on their investment, her clients have a valid argument for claiming property rights were taken by the city.
The properties were zoned for residential use when her clients first bought the property, and were later reclassified for conservation and then preservation, Stone said.
Councilman John Henry Felix, who represents the Aina Haina area, said the land is worth much more than what city appraisers put it at, because between 80,000 and 120,000 cemetery plots could be put there.
A city appraiser informed Council members that he thinks the parcels are worth $5 million.