HONOLULU (KHON2) — A Honolulu Liquor Commission (HLC) public hearing scheduled next month, February is stirring reaction from the business community, some restaurant and bar operators said new rules under consideration overreach the commission’s purview.

Business operators are concerned about a proposed rule by the HLC to reinstate a 24-hour shutdown for violations without notice or opportunity for a hearing.

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Scarlet Honolulu’s owner Robbie Baldwin said a 24-hour shutdown does not allow them due process.

“I mean, no one is saying that there shouldn’t be rules,” Baldwin said. “What we’re saying is that there is a process which is in place to be heard by five commissioners in the hearing room.”

COVID-19 emergency orders introduced by then-Mayor Kirk Caldwell allowed liquor commission field investigators to temporarily shut down businesses over coronavirus rule violations.

That was later undone by current Mayor Rick Blangiardi in an emergency order that went into effect in December 2021.

When asked if the commission is looking to reinstate that oversight and enforcement, the HLC sent KHON2 News this statement:

The differences between the two orders you reference are due to the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions on business establishments, including restaurants and bars holding liquor licenses. The decisions as to what is required in the Emergency Orders are based upon analyzing both public health and economic conditions. Despite the change in the Emergency Order, the Honolulu Liquor Commission (HLC) has authority to enforce for violating state and county laws so although the HLC may no longer impose certain penalties specified in the prior Order, the HLC’s general enforcement authority would not be impacted by the change.

Andrew Shimabukuro, the general manager for Dave & Busters in Hawaii, said he does not understand why the commission would want to regain the authority to close down businesses for 24 hours as many still try to recover from the economic hit brought by the pandemic.

“I feel that the liquor commission should take more of a tutorial approach, you know, just like the health department does,” Shimabukuro said. “They come in, they coach you to tell you what the problem is. And then if you don’t fix it, then we go from there.”

It remains unclear what kind of violations would warrant a 24-hour shutdown under the proposed amendments.

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A public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 10 at 4 p.m.