Friday, July 30, 1999

Chapel is refused
liquor license, may
go to court

'The way (opponents) obtained
signatures (for a successful petition)
was unethical, possibly illegal'

By Mary Adamski


A Kapahulu wedding business may take its opponents to court for allegations made about its plans to serve alcoholic beverages at the site.

"False and misleading information was circulated about the occupancy, about what they intend to do with the license," said spokeswoman Nanette Noma after Gloria Bridal Services lost its bid for a liquor license yesterday.

The decision of whether to grant the license to the Gloria Gardens Chapel and Club House at 3050 Monsarrat Ave. was taken out of the hands of the Honolulu Liquor Commission. Opponents succeeded in getting 53.1 percent of the property owners within 500 feet of the chapel to sign their petitions. By law, a simple majority of surrounding owners or registered voters will scuttle an application.

"We feel the way they obtained signatures was unethical, possibly illegal," said Noma, a liquor license consultant, who made her own bid to sign up supporters in the surrounding neighborhood. She told the Liquor Commission that it is the intent of the bridal chapel to appeal to state court.

"Nobody told anybody anything that isn't the truth," said Marguerite Ige of Kaunaoa Street, a leader of the petition drive.

Liquor Commission Chairman John Spierling said "our hands are tied on this" after hearing the figures from liquor law administrator Wally Weatherwax. The petition had 246 signatures, 183 of whom were among the 344 qualified property owners.

The public hearing ended with no public testimony. Spierling commented: "In that area ... I wonder why a bridal outfit would be causing so much difficulty."

Commissioner Avis Jervis responded, "I'm sure the neighbors living there know what it is."

"You've said that before," said Spierling, moving on to another agenda item.

Ige and other residents answered Spierling's question for reporters outside the hearing room. Although the address is on the busy, commercially zoned Monsarrat Avenue, the wedding chapel's entrance is on Kaunaoa Street, and its exit is on Kanaina Street, both narrow, congested residential streets.

Limousines and vans bring wedding parties, then park on the street, sometimes with motors running, the residents said. They found the license application raised the potential that drinkers would join the traffic mix on their streets.

"They changed the neighborhood," said Kaunaoa Street resident Tan "Danny" Lam. "We moved here to raise a family. They've turned it into a commercial street," said Lam. He and his wife, Melody, brought their two toddlers to the hearing.

John K. Hayasaka, a company director, said Gloria Bridal Services will continue with business as usual. The Japanese company opened the complex -- which includes a two-story building housing banquet rooms, photo studio, tuxedo and bridal gown shop and dressing rooms -- in 1996.

"We offer a package deal, from A to Z, and were going to offer champagne at receptions," he said. "It was nothing like selling to outsiders." The reception caterer has a liquor license, and champagne will continue to be served, but without clients having the choice or the business having the ability to set a price on the drinks.

General Manager Yasuyuki Ishizuka said earlier that there are about 1,000 weddings per year at the chapel, and about one-third of the clients pay for a reception as well. About 95 percent of the couples are from Japan, but the company has begun to market its wedding services on the Internet, hoping to attract about 35 percent of future business from Europe, the mainland and Hawaii, Ishizuka said.

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