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Some Hawaii breweries disagree with the beverage commission that closes them



HONOLULU (KHON2) – By order of President Kirk Caldwell issued in late July, he ordered the closure of all bars for at least three weeks.

On July 31, all bars in Oahu were ordered closed.

[Hawaii news on the go–LISTEN to KHON 2GO weekday mornings at 7:30 a.m.]

On Saturday, August 8, the Honolulu Liquor Commission named and closed 10 institutions; including: Aloha Beer Company, Wwiki Brewing Company, Di’s Karaoke, Hibiscus Club, 8 Fat Fat 8, Aqua Lounge, Blue Star Club, Club Wave, Emerald City and Club Bonita.

Only Aloha Beer Company and Waikiki Brewing Company will be able to reopen after the mandatory 24-hour closing, but only for retail / off-premises sales. An official at the Honolulu Liquor Commission clarified that there should be no on-premises consumption.

The city said in a press release that Saturday evening was the first implementation action of the Honolulu Liquor Commission, taken under the Mayor̵

7;s 2020-23 Emergency Order. There were a number of other monitored locations open, the city said. However, due to the time taken to take action in each country, investigators were unable to reach them before closing at 10 a.m.

An official with the Honolulu Liquor Commission said investigators made their determination based on the conduct of the surveyed business.

The Waikiki Brewing Company and Aloha Beer Company said they were surprised when the liquor commission investigators arrived Saturday night because they consider themselves more of a restaurant than a bar.

The brewer at Waikiki Brewing Company said Mayor Caldwell’s order is confusing, especially for beers.

The order defines a restaurant as:

(1) is a place which is regularly used and properly used and kept open for the service of meals to customers for compensation and which has suitable kitchen appliances connected with it, containing the necessary equipment and supplies for cooking an assortment of foods. which may be required for ordinary foods.

(2) At least thirty percent (30%) of the gross income of the enterprise must be derived from the sale of food.

(3) It is able and operates under the conditions / restrictions / requirements set out in Section 12, entitled “Restaurants”, in Exhibit A of the current order. (See below)

“Having enough cuisine or selling food does not consider a restaurant in and of itself,” wrote an official on the Honolulu Liquor Commission.

For restaurants operating under this section while holding a beverage license issued by the Honolulu City and County Liquor Commission, State of Hawaii, (including Classes 2, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, or 18 beverage licenses), the following restrictions and penalties also apply: Indoor consumption hours. Licensees (restaurants operating under this section) cease selling, serving and consuming beverages at or before 10:00. The start-up time of sales, service and consumption of beverages remains the same, based on the license class.

The definitions of bars also define beers as bars.

The brewer said brewers have a Class 14 license because they must have one in order to make their own beer, or else they would have a Class 2 restaurant license.

“At that point, we closed last night, we were 51.5% food sales during the day,” explained Waikiki Brewmaster Brewing Joe Lorenzen. “We are a sitting restaurant, we just have to have that beer class license or else we have not been able to create our own beer there.”

Since the restaurants were able to reopen to dine on services he said his creation has followed all the necessary new rules including employee temperature controls, seating, social distancing, constant cleaning and asking all customers wear a mask inside the beer and in the bathroom.

“They had no interest in hearing from us actually how we comply with the order, and we are doing all the right things we could do,” Lorenzen said.

“We go further and further with health and safety and we take great care of our staff, our community and our customers, we just want to be able to run the business and now I will have to lay off 15 people,” he explained.

He said most beers have been operating as restaurants for years and he said the commission is likely to target other beers in the coming days.

“It’s a shame if it’s based on the number associated with the number on your liquor license and not how you do business and the measures you take to keep people safe,” he said.

He said he would like more transparency and clarity from the beverage commission to determine the restaurant when it comes to beers.

He said he hopes they will be able to continue serving food because just carrying food for lifting was difficult.

Cindy Goldstein, executive director of the Guild Hawaii Craft Brewers, said breweries, tap bars, etc. that are compliant should be allowed to stay open.

“We would not like to see small local businesses that are locally owned and want to be part of the solution of not being able to stay open, and continue to offer employment,” she explained.

She said breweries offer a different experience and atmosphere from what bars do.

“She took the craft beer bars, beers and tap rooms by surprise to be treated like bars because it’s a different atmosphere,” she said.

She said being able to sell their beer to go for the next two weeks will not support their business.

“This is not enough to keep people employed. It is not a sustainable business model to not have food as part of their service.”

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