Wednesday, September 29, 1999

Star-Bulletin file photo
Owners of the Gloria Bridal Chapel are applying for
a general dispensation liquor license over protest from the
surrounding neighbors along the Monsarrat Avenue area.

Chapel to challenge
denial of liquor license

A Kapahulu citizens group
says it was denied participation
at Liquor Commission meetings

By Mary Adamski


Gloria Bridal Chapel is expected to tell the Honolulu Liquor Commission that its neighbors didn't play fair in their successful petition drive against its liquor license application.

Opponents have accused the commissioners of being unfair to Kapahulu neighbors denied the right to speak at three Liquor Commission meetings. A group called Kapahulu Neighbors complained to the state Office of Information Practices that the commission violated the state Sunshine Law and liquor statutes by denying them participation at commission meetings.

The commission tomorrow will hear Gloria Bridal's request for reconsideration of the July 29 action which, in effect, denied the license.

"We claim that there is no decision that can be reconsidered," said Kapahulu Neighbors in a letter yesterday to the commission. The commissioners did not vote because an automatic denial was triggered by the petition. Opponents collected signatures from a majority of property owners within 500 feet of the wedding chapel; by law, that killed the application.

"We felt that the commission treated us unfairly, viewed us as irritants in their process and showed us injustice on almost every occasion," Kapahulu Neighbors said in their letter signed by 35 residents.

"They were denied the right to speak," said state Sen. Les Ihara (D, Kapahulu-Kaimuki), who also complained to the Office of Information Practices. He said the Liquor Commission erred in treating the Kapahulu residents as just part of the audience at its meetings.

"They are not just the general public," Ihara said. "They have a statutory right; they are a party to this case because all of them are within 500 feet of the premise. The 1934 liquor law gives communities the power to veto or deny a liquor license."

Ihara said he has not taken a position about the license application, but has met with the Liquor Commission to express his concerns about the open meeting process.

Ihara said the Gloria Bridal Chapel application was on the Liquor Commission agenda on May 13, July 29 and Aug. 26 and that each time, the neighbors' attempts to speak were rebuffed by the commission.

May 13 was the date originally set for a public hearing on the application, but the hearing was postponed at the request of Gloria Chapel spokeswoman Nanette Noma.

At the July 29 public hearing, liquor law Administrator Wally Weatherwax reported that the petition drive reached 53.1 percent opposition, mandating denial. Commission Chairman John Spierling ended the hearing without accepting any testimony.

The commission was set to hear Gloria Chapel's appeal for reconsideration Aug. 26, but Noma again asked for a postponement.

Noma told the commission the request is based on evidence that "false and misleading information" was circulated during the petition drive. She said people who signed the petition indicated they want to rescind their signatures.

Kapahulu Neighbors said in their letter that they wanted to challenge some of the information the Liquor Commission staff reported. They have collected opposition signatures from 213 people, amounting to 66.4 percent of those within 500 feet of the chapel.

If Gloria Chapel is allowed to challenge or delete names from the petition as it stood on July 29, then the opponents should be able to add names collected since then, Kapahulu Neighbors asserted.

Gloria Bridal representatives have said they want a dispenser general license to allow the sale of champagne for toasts at wedding receptions in the clubhouse adjoining the chapel at 3050 Kapahulu Ave.

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