Friday, July 9, 1999

City & County of Honolulu

Mirikitani lashes out at
liquor commission

By Mary Adamski
and Gordon Y.K. Pang


City Councilman Andy Mirikitani has told Honolulu Liquor Commission officials that they are failing in enforcement of liquor laws.

"The statistics show an alarming drop in revenues from fines, down from over $600,000 in 1996 to $150,000 in the last fiscal year. There has been precipitous drop in license revocations for repeat violators," he said, citing five canceled licenses in the past five years, none in the past two.

Mirikitani called for establishment of a task force joining the city prosecutor's office and the Honolulu Police Department with commission investigators to curtail "blatant, widespread violations."

Allegations of illegal sex acts in strip bars and lap-dancing clubs spiced the discussion before a Council committee yesterday.

Mirikitani used the informational meeting of the Planning and Public Safety Committee, which he chairs, to chide liquor law Administrator Wally Weatherwax and his staff.

Graphic evidence

A focus of testimony was a two-hour video of alleged violations by strippers and others, brought to Mirikitani by Warren Colazzo, owner of Babes in Paradise, a strip club without a liquor license. Colazzo filmed the action in competing bars with a hidden camera. He has shown it to Mirikitani and will show it today to liquor law investigators, but it did not air in the Council committee room.

"If they're going to enforce the law in my club, they gotta enforce it in other clubs," Colazzo said. "I want a fair playing field." Colazzo's customers bring their own alcoholic beverages or get delivery from a nearby retail store.

A Mirikitani bill targets such bring-your-own-booze establishments as well as teen-age nightclubs, seeking to prohibit liquor consumption if it's not sold by the club, and to extend a 21-year-old age limit for strip club patrons and dancers to the unlicensed places.

"I think the Liquor Commission cannot go in these clubs because the inspectors are all well-known, everything stops," Colazzo said. "The Liquor Commission needs to start working with police undercover."


Weatherwax told the committee, "We are meeting our mission. You may feel the fines should be in the millions. To say we are not enforcing is uninformed and not accurate.

"We are not particularly interested in providing Mr. Colazzo a level playing field," Weatherwax said. "He's coming from a position that he's been a recipient of enforcement."

Mirikitani also chastised the commission for not cracking down harder on so-called "booze cruises."

Complaints have come in from mainlanders that young people under 21 are being lured onto booze cruises by Waikiki street hawkers who also give information on where to find fake identification cards.

The commission should have cracked down harder on the cruises after issuing seven citations to one such party boat in March, Mirikitani said.

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