Friday, October 1, 1999

City & County of Honolulu

Wedding chapel loses
again: No liquor license

The liquor board listens, for the
first time, to testimony from
the facility's neighbors

By Mary Adamski


Gloria Bridal Services has failed to resurrect its plan to sell champagne for wedding receptions.

The Honolulu Liquor Commission yesterday refused to reconsider a liquor license application, which was vetoed July 29 by a majority of the chapel's Kapahulu neighbors.

But first, commissioners took the advice of the state Office of Information Practices and listened to testimony from neighborhood opponents for the first time.

"We've been coming here for a couple of years now, it's not right to keep dragging us through this," said Stephen Foster Williams, a Kaunaoa Street property owner. "I thought the law was clear, we got enough signatures to defeat it."

More than 200 residents within 500 feet of the chapel-clubhouse complex signed a petition against the license application. The opposition by 53.1 percent of eligible property holders mandated denial under state liquor laws.

Nanette Noma, agent for the Japan-owned wedding company, told commissioners yesterday "the way they achieved signatures was fraudulent. The decision was not based on the truth." She said materials circulated by the opponents misrepresented the chapel's plans to sell liquor.

Commissioner Orlando Soriano said Gloria Bridal Services "were not able to provide any new evidence," and he won unanimous support of his motion to refuse a rehearing.

Noma declined to say whether the company will pursue a court appeal. Even with their victory at the July 29 commission meeting, neighbors felt thwarted because the commission declined to take public testimony at that and other meetings. "This is the sixth time we've been here," Kaunaoa Street resident Marguerite Ige said. "We have not maligned anybody, we have not libeled anybody, we presented nothing but facts that can be proved."

The opponents, organized as Kapahulu Neighbors, complained to the Office of Information Practices about being refused an opportunity to speak at Liquor Commission public hearings.

The agency, which advises state and county governments on the Sunshine Law and public accessibility matters, yesterday told the commission that public testimony must be allowed on items listed on a published agenda. In a letter to deputy corporation counsel Duane Pang, the Office of Information Practices said "the public has a right to present and the commission has a duty to allow oral testimony on the item. The spirit of the Sunshine Law requires openness and public participation in government deliberations and decisions."

Company officials said a license would allow them to sell champagne at wedding receptions. Champagne is now provided by an outside caterer.

General manager Yasuyuki Ishizuka said earlier that a license would help the company achieve a return on its $5 million investment. Built in 1996 to grab a share of the lucrative Japanese wedding market, the business has staged about 1,000 weddings a year, fewer than anticipated, he said.

"They must be doing very well without a license," said Daisy Murai, who lives next to the chapel's driveway on Kaunaoa Street. She described the traffic congestion the business has caused because its entrances are on narrow residential streets.

Commissioner Chu Lan Kwock told the neighbors that nothing much will change. "Without a license they can still operate the business as it is."

Gloria Bridal may return in one year to apply again but, by law, must demonstrate that there has been some significant change since its application was denied.

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