Home / Business / Several Hawaiian breweries disagree with the liquor commission closing them

Several Hawaiian breweries disagree with the liquor commission closing them

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

On July 31, all Oahu bars were ordered to close.

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On Saturday August 8, the Honolulu Liquor Commission sued and closed 10 factories; including: Aloha Beer Company, Wakiki Brewing Company, Di’s Karaoke, Hibiscus Club, 8 Fat Fat 8, Aqua Lounge, Club Blue Star, 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 closure, but only for retail / off-site sales. A Honolulu Liquor Commission official made it clear that there was to be no onsite consumption.

The city said in a press release that Saturday evening were the first Honolulu Liquor Commission enforcement actions taken under the Mayor̵

7;s Emergency Order 2020-23. There were a number of other places open, the city said. However, due to the time it took to intervene at each location, investigators were unable to reach them before closing at 10pm.

A Honolulu Liquor Commission official said investigators made their determination based on the conduct of the observed 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 Waikiki Brewing Company master brewer said Mayor Caldwell’s order is confusing, especially for breweries.

The order defines a restaurant as:

(1) It is a place that is regularly and in good faith used and kept open to serve meals to patrons for a fee and that has adequate connected kitchen facilities, containing the necessary equipment and supplies to cook an assortment of foods that can be required for ordinary meals.

(2) At least thirty percent (30%) of the establishment’s gross revenue must come from the sale of food.

(3) Is capable of and operates under the conditions / restrictions / requirements set forth in Section 12, entitled “restaurants”, in Attachment A of the current order. (look down)

“Having a kitchen or enough food sales does not consider a place to be a restaurant in itself,” wrote a Honolulu Liquor Commission official.

For restaurants operating under this section while in possession of a liquor license issued by the City and County Liquor Commission of Honolulu, State of Hawaii, (including Class 2, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 or 18 liquor licenses), the following restrictions and penalties also apply: Hours for on-site consumption. Licensees (who operate restaurants under this section) will cease the sale, service and consumption of alcohol by 10pm. The start time for sales, service and alcohol consumption will remain the same, based on the license class.

Bar definitions also define breweries as bars.

The brewmaster said the breweries hold a Class 14 license because they must have one to make their own beer, otherwise they would have a Class 2 restaurant license.

“At that point, we were closed last night, we had 51.5% of food sales,” explained Joe Lorenzen, the master brewer of Waikiki Brewing. “We are a seating restaurant, we just need to have that brewpub class license otherwise we weren’t able to brew our beer there.”

As restaurants were able to reopen to dine in services, he said his establishment followed all necessary new rules, including employee temperature controls, seat spacing, social distance, constant cleanliness, and request to all customers to wear a mask inside the brewery and in the bathroom.

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

“We go beyond health and safety and care about our people, the community and our customers, we just want to be able to conduct business and now I’m going to have to lay off 15 people,” He explained.

He said most breweries have been operating as restaurants for years and said the committee will likely turn to other breweries in the coming days.

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

He said he would like more transparency and clarity from the Liquor Committee on the definition of the restaurant when it comes to breweries.

He said he hopes they will be able to continue serving food because just carrying take-out was difficult.

Cindy Goldstein, executive director of the Hawaiian Craft Brewers Guild, said breweries, tap bars etc. Who are in good standing should be allowed to remain open.

“We wouldn’t want to see small local businesses that are locally owned and want to be part of the solution by not being able to stay open and continue to offer jobs,” he explained.

He said that the breweries offer a different experience and atmosphere than the bars.

“It took the craft breweries, breweries and bar lounges by surprise to be treated as a bar because the atmosphere is different,” he said.

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

“This isn’t enough to keep people busy, it’s not a sustainable business model not to have food as part of their service.”

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