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Dancing and drinking won’t mix in Maui’s bars


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POSTED: Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Maui residents will keep dancing in the streets outside some bars and restaurants, but not from joy.

A judge has upheld a Maui County Department of Liquor Control rule that prohibits dancing in bars that do not have a designated dance floor, and that any dancing must be done where drinking is not permitted.

Maui Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza ruled March 27 there is no constitutional right to engage in recreational dancing, and dismissed the lawsuit filed by Maui Dance Advocates and Ramoda Anand against the county Liquor Commission.

The plaintiffs said they will appeal.

“These rules were probably adopted so long ago — around the same time when Maui adopted rules prohibiting single women from going to dance halls 50 to 80 years ago,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney, Lance Collins, adding that those rules were repealed only last year.

If people want to move to the beat of the music, they have to go outside an establishment that has a liquor license, he said.

Collins said his clients believe dancing is “a form of expression that’s clearly protected by the First Amendment,” adding, “My clients feel that the judge erred in his judgment. In general, my clients believe that it is absurd to say that nude dancers have a constitutional right to dance, but people who are clothed don’t have a right.”

Reminiscent of the 1984 Kevin Bacon movie “Footloose,” about a town that banned dancing, the county Department of Liquor Control rule states: “Any dancing or entertainment provided shall be in areas designated and approved by the director.

“An approved area for dancing shall have, when utilized, a minimum area of 100 square feet, be a non-consumption area, and shall be clearly designated for dancing.”

The rule is designed to protect the safety of workers and customers in a bar, the county said in a news release.

Deputy Corporation Counsel Jane Lovell said, “As the U.S. Supreme Court has said, there are many activities that contain some ‘kernel of expression’ that are not entitled to protection under the First Amendment. Several appellate courts have found that recreational dancing is not entitled to such protection, and similar activities, such as roller skating, are likewise not protected.”

Maui Dance Advocates, an association of about 86 Maui residents, tried to petition the Liquor Commission to have the rules modified to define what dancing was, but the Liquor Commission denied its petition.

Collins said the rules are both overly broad and vague.

“Even people moving to the rhythm were getting harassed sometimes by liquor inspectors,” he said.