Monday, June 15, 1998

Name: Wally Weatherwax
Age: 55
Education: University of Santa Clara law degree
Position: Honolulu liquor law administrator
Hobbies: Golf

Liquor agency gains mediator

It's the campaigns against sex-for-sale in bars, and neighbors-vs.-noise battles, that put the Honolulu Liquor Commission into the headlines. But the daily work of the agency has more to do with education and mediation, says the latest liquor law administrator.

"The bottom line is not to just catch people. It's to get the licensee to self-police, to meet the requirements and to be a better neighbor. It's adversarial only if they are noncompliant," said Wally Weatherwax, picked by the commission in February to head the staff of the office which oversees the liquor industry on Oahu.

Weatherwax came to the job with more than 20 years of experience as a government attorney and administrator. He was an assistant U.S. attorney and headed the office for one year, and served as executive director of the state Campaign Spending Commission for two years.

He was a deputy city prosecutor for eight years and most recently, as a deputy corporation counsel, was assigned to advise the Liquor Commission. He served as interim administrator after John Rybczyk resigned last fall.

He also has spent several years in private practice, and retired as a lieutenant colonel after 28 years in the Army Reserve.

"The commission acts as mediator between businesses and residents," said Weatherwax. Conflict often arises in Waikiki, home to thousands of high-rise residents in addition to being a resort destination for entertainment-seeking visitors.

"Sometimes, there is an inconsistency in lifestyles ... the only solution is that something has got to go."

He said a good example of a resolution was the move by World Cafe, a Restaurant Row dance club and the source of loud late-night sounds that put it in conflict with condominium dwellers at Waterfront Towers. The club reopened at a Nimitz Highway location.

Noise will continue to be a concern, and recently revamped rules contain "a refinement in method of gathering proof." Liquor investigators have been certified to operate decibel meters, and the office, poised to take over a task formerly handled by the state Department of Health, has acquired the equipment.

Weatherwax said the high priority of commission and staff is to curb the sale of liquor to minors. At this graduation-party time of year, it is a key factor in deployment of staff. He testified in favor of an unsuccessful bill before the Legislature under which a minor convicted of illegally possessing alcohol would lose his drivers license.

Weatherwax said he has heard the critics who say the liquor industry is overregulated, the legacy of Prohibition.

"There really is a need to regulate the liquor industry," he said. "If it went unregulated, we would have the abuses of the past. There is a lot of competition between general dispensers, and some can get fairly unruly in terms of competition.

"We also bring a standard of conduct to everyone involved."

Mary Adamski, Star-Bulletin

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