Increase in liquor license fees OK'd
Concerns about the liquor panel's leaders had delayed the action
THE CITY COUNCIL approved license fee increases for the Honolulu Liquor Commission yesterday, a move that had been blocked due to questions about the panel's leadership.
"We've been working hard to win (the Council's) confidence and the confidence of the public as well," Commission Chairman Dennis Enomoto said. "It gives some acknowledgment that we are making progress."
Some Council members had urged that the fee increases, expected to bring in an extra $250,000 a year, be held up until the top two administrators of the agency resigned. Administrator Wallace Weatherwax stepped down in July.
The commission's troubled past includes the conviction of eight former liquor inspectors for bribery. Earlier this year, a city audit slammed the management of the agency.
The commission is in the midst of finding a new administrator and carrying out a new strategic plan.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who appointed three new members to the commission this year, said the commission has been working hard to heed the concerns of the public, the City Council and his administration.
"I don't feel that all of their problems are out of the way, obviously, but I think they're showing recognition of a problem and that they're willing to do their part to bringing about some meaningful solutions," the mayor said. "So I tip my hat to Dennis Enomoto and the Liquor Commission."
Councilman Charles Djou, a frequent critic of the commission, was the only Council member to vote against the fee increase yesterday.
Djou said that while he believes the Liquor Commission is headed down the right path, he would have preferred to see the commission's reforms in place and working before voting to approve the increases.
"I don't think they have reformed the agency yet, but I think they're moving in that direction," Djou said.
Enomoto said the fee increases should bring in an additional $250,000 the first year, which will help the commission implement its strategic plan, pay for increased fixed costs and shore up its aging infrastructure, including outdated computers.