Friday, November 30, 2001

Strip club claims area free
from liquor rules

By Leila Fujimori

The Honolulu Liquor Commission heard new evidence yesterday by attorneys for a Keeaumoku Street strip club trying to save its liquor license.

The commission revoked Golden Dolls Showgirls' liquor license June 28 and then denied a request to reconsider its vote and to hear further evidence on Oct. 25.

After Golden Dolls' attorneys appealed the case, Circuit Judge Elizabeth Hifo remanded the case back to the Liquor Commission to hear the new evidence.

The club has been allowed to continue serving liquor.

In June the commission found the club was guilty of time record violations, having unregistered nude dancers and an underage dancer. The findings came out of a Honolulu Police Department undercover operation Sept. 15, 2000, that looked for prostitution.

Police had rented a second-floor room of the club for a bachelor party.

Golden Dolls' attorneys say the bar's owner, Yvonne Dang, was told the second floor was de-licensed or removed from the licensed premises, which meant it was no longer subject to liquor licensing rules and the commission would have no jurisdiction. Attorney David Gierlach said employees were acquitted of all prostitution charges.

"To revoke her liquor license, I think that was a mistake," Gierlach said.

Honolulu Liquor Commission Administrator Wallace Weatherwax, called as a witness by the club, maintained that as administrator he does not have the authority to permanently remove a portion of a licensed premises from the jurisdiction of the commission, only temporary de-licensing.

Weatherwax testified under oath that he understood the rules to mean that permanent de-licensing would require approval of the entire commission and a hearing.

Gierlach, however, presented a commission document that showed Weatherwax had acted in such a capacity in the case of another bar. And commission investigators testified hearings are not routinely held in such cases.

In the case of Golden Dolls, Gierlach presented a June 14, 2000, commission report granting the de-licensing of the premises and signed by John Carroll, the Liquor Commission's chief investigator, on behalf of Weatherwax. But when asked by the bar's other attorney, Michael Green, if he had seen the document before, Carroll replied, "Not that I would sign it," although he did testify it was his signature.

"I never signed for Weatherwax for a permanent deletion," Carroll said.

A commission investigator said he gave the document to Dang.

Carroll left the hearing briefly to retrieve two files of commission correspondence and memos concerning Golden Dolls, requested by Green five months ago. Carroll could not account for the commission's loss of its in-house file on Golden Dolls, missing since before the June hearing.

The city and the club's attorneys have until Dec. 7 to submit written findings of fact and conclusions of law.

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