Liquor commission to decide on Nawiliwili bar in two weeks

The County of Kaua‘i Liquor Control Commission will reserve judgment on the fate of the proposed multipurpose establishment in Nawiliwili until its May 4 meeting.

The five-person commission heard testimony from both sides Thursday afternoon in an open hearing to decide whether or not to grant a liquor license.

“It went very well,” said commission director Eric Honma. “It was an orderly public hearing.”

Nawiliwili residents have organized a strong opposition in what has become a passionate cause to clean up the area’s crime and noise problems.

While opponents paint the facility as a night club, Victor Heresa and the other partners in Bayside View say their establishment will be used for anything from wedding receptions and banquets to dancing and live music.

“We’re not interested in bringing any more negative elements to the area,” Heresa said.

In the end, it might be out of the commission’s control. Hawai‘i’s liquor laws mandate the denial of any license application that generates written opposition from 51 percent of registered voters living within a 500-foot radius of the proposed establishment.

“We have to go with the law, and the states that if we have 51 percent (opposition), we have to deny,” chairwoman Carol Suzawa said.

The commission’s next step, then, is to verify the list of registered voters provided by Steve Layne, owner of the Garden Island Inn and vocal opponent. Layne has encountered problems with up-to-date voter registration records, but said that he has at least 60 percent.

If the names of 35 registered voters who have either moved or died are expunged, Layne said he will have more than 80 percent.

The commission does not have the power to amend public records, but they are looking into it.

“The Liquor Control Department is verifying the voter registration list,” Suzawa said. “Until then, there is no board decision.”

Even if the opposition fails to come up with a majority, the commission can still deny the application with a majority vote if they feel the opposition has raised valid issues and demonstrated legimate concern.

Layne said the commission received more than 150 letters in opposition and none in support, and about 10 people spoke out against the proposal while only one, Victor Heresa, spoke in favor.

“I think it went really well in our favor,” said Marcie Gracey, director of the Banyan Harbor Board of Directors.

Gracey said some commissioners questioned the need for another outlet for liquor in the area, when there are already problems with noise, drugs, vandalism and violence in Nawiliwili Park, which sits adjacent to Anchor Cove Shopping Center and the old bowling alley.

Heresa said he also thought the hearing went well, and that the commission understood that he and his partners do not want to contribute to the problem.

“If this park was safe and there was no noise, I would have a better chance of doing what I want to do,” he said.

The commission will meet again at 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 4.

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