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Panel might restrict clubs' hours


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POSTED: Thursday, August 20, 2009

Three popular nightclubs face possible Honolulu Liquor Commission restrictions aimed at curbing assaults at the Waikiki Trade Center.

Police say that during the first half of this year, the trade center had the most assaults of any area on Oahu because of the three clubs closing at the same time, 4 a.m.

The city commission will hear testimony today on its petition involving the Shack Waikiki, Zanzabar and Black Diamond, formerly Fashion 45, on Kuhio Avenue.

Commission Administrator Dewey Kim said the panel will decide if it should impose any conditions. One could be forcing the bars to close earlier.

“;The intent in setting up the petition (to impose restrictions) was to get information,”; Kim said. “;The commission wants to hear from the Waikiki Trade Center and the three bars what's going on down there.”;

Police say the center is a “;hot spot”; with a high rate of crime, such as assaults and motor vehicle break-ins, amid heavy crowds.

“;Our biggest concern would be for the general public safety in the area,”; said Waikiki district police Maj. Gregory Lefcourt.

Police are working with the center's management, the commission and other groups on a solution.

“;It's bigger than us just throwing 30 or 40 officers”; at the problem, said Waikiki district Capt. Jeff Richards. “;When you have the three big bars that close at 4 o'clock, you get a lot of people. ... They get involved with the little dramas.

“;Whenever you get alcohol and people together and you throw in a third entity, it can create havoc,”; he said. Contributing factors could include perceived insults, jealousy or money.

Efforts to reduce crime in the past month have been positive, he said.

“;It seems to be a work in progress,”; he said. “;It's not ending, but it seems to be tapering off a little bit.”;

Jim Boersema, managing partner of Zanzabar, said owners have taken steps themselves to curb the assaults.

Zanzabar and the Shack take turns closing half an hour earlier to reduce the rush of patrons exiting through one area, he said. Zanzabar bouncers also work with the center's security to escort unruly people off the property instead of just out of the club.

“;I understand that there's been an increase in violence,”; he said. “;I don't think anybody there wants it.”;

Black Diamond attorney Mark Kawata said his client is fighting for the return of its 4 a.m. liquor license, which the commission took away when the license was transferred earlier this year because of incidents at the center.

The owner, operating under a 2 a.m. license, is distressed about the loss of business from the limited liquor license, especially since the owner never had a violation since opening in May, Kawata said.