LIHUE — If the Kauai County Council was aware Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr. did not support a bill to legalize drinking on the Wailua Golf Course, it would have saved a lot of time and trouble, said Councilman Ross Kagawa.
“Had we known the mayor intended to veto it, I don’t think the bill would have ever made it this far. Had the six of us known, it would have been an easy vote to kill it,” he said. “Either the administration needs to keep better track of what’s on the council agenda or we need to communicate better to the mayor that we need him to oversee what his management is coming up with.”
It’s a sentiment Mel Rapozo, council chair, echoed.
“When the Parks Department came to council, it was asked whether or not the administration supported the bill. It was very clear to me that the Parks Department supported anything that would benefit the concessionaire,” Rapozo said. “Had we known from the beginning that the administration wasn’t going to support the bill, much of it could be avoided.”
Rapozo said he’s hoping Bill No. 2635, which allows for the sale of alcohol at the Wailua Golf Course via roving concessions, will run its course and the veto will stand. If golfers want to drink alcohol, they must consume it in the Over Par restaurant, he said.
On Thursday, the Kauai County Council unanimously voted to lay the mayor’s veto of Bill 2635 on the table.
It was a procedural action to allow the council to decide at future meetings to override or sustain the veto. No decision was made at the meeting, and the council has 30 days to take action.
Bill 2635 was passed 6 to 1 on Dec. 14. A few days later, Carvalho announced his intention to veto the bill, citing concerns about safety, liability and costs.
“I understand and appreciate supporting golf course operations. We’re all trying to do what we can,” Carvalho said Thursday. “But as with all legislative initiatives, we must consider the unintended consequences. As owners of the course, we could be held liable for any risks.”
But because drinking on the course happens already, Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura argued the liability remains the same.
“Someone can over-drink on their own alcohol and create the same kind of problems on the roads. To me, the bill is an improvement. Right now, there’s no control. And if we allow drinking on a more formal process that would at least provide some regulation,” she said.
In the County of Hawaii, golfers at the Hilo Municipal Golf Course have to follow the same rules, said Gerald Takase, director of Liquor Control. But he does agree with Yukimura.
“It’s a county park, and most parks don’t allow alcohol,” he said. “It’s better for the county to regulate it because once you get an alcohol license, the licensee has control and can stop people from bringing their alcohol in. The course could get more revenue that way.”
The county administration is looking at ways to better monitor drinking that already occurs on the links and ways to better market it to residents and tourists, said Wally Rezentes, Kauai County managing director.
“We realize we need to get on track in terms of enforcement. But we don’t have all of the answers today,” he said.
Kagawa said he supports any measures to promote the golf course.
“We came up with this bill so the concessionaire could have an operation to compete with other courses that have beverage carts,” he said.
While the Kukui’ula Golf Course, a private course in Koloa, does not have beverage carts, golfers can buy beer from the golf shop and bring it with then, said Todd Michaelsen, head golf pro.
But they are not allowed to bring more than two beers at a time or hide beer from home in their bags, he said.
Better management of the Wailua Golf Course is key to making sure it is sustainable, Yukimura said.
“The course is a gem. It’s a magnificent course and an asset if it can be managed properly,” she said. “We need a golf course with best practices and great entrepreneurial thinking. I don’t think that comes from the mayor’s office. We need a manager specifically assigned to the golf course.”
The administration has until Jan. 27 to present the council with its plans.
The Wailua Golf Course will be discussed at committee on Feb. 1.