Complaints pour in over Honolulu Liquor Commission as critics call for overhaul
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) — The agency responsible for overseeing liquor sales on Oahu is under fire again, facing new allegations of corruption and discrimination.
An amended complaint, filed Monday by LGBTQ business owners, cites civil rights violations by the Honolulu Liquor Commission and the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, as well as individual employees.
The owners of Scarlet Honolulu and Gay Island Guide have increased the number of violations in their federal lawsuit.
But these aren’t the only business owners speaking out.
Lanikai Brewing Company founder Steve Haumschild is not part of the lawsuit, but has spoken out about the commission’s questionable behavior, particularly during the pandemic.
“They led with an iron fist,” Haumschild said, adding that he was unfairly singled out for citations and forced to shut down multiple times despite following all the rules.
Last month, the city’s own attorneys dropped the case against Lanikai Brewing Co.
“After a thorough review of this matter, I would ask the commission to dismiss these charges,” said the company’s assistant attorney, Daniel Jacob.
Haumschild said he was suspected of being inspected nine times in three months after speaking to the agency.
“You can only be left to think that there is some sort of underlying corruption or blatant incompetence,” Haumschild said.
His attorney, Megan Kau, said the firing by city prosecutors proves something was wrong.
“There was no reason to close Lanikai,” Kau said.
She said it made her wonder about other businesses forced to close by the agency.
There is a growing list of restaurants and bars calling for an overhaul of the liquor commission, which recently saw commissioners and the administrator quit abruptly.
Robbie Baldwin, founder of Scarlet Honolulu, said the agency’s investigators harassed its staff and clients years before the pandemic.
“It’s just becoming very obvious that this organization is completely rotten from top to bottom,” Baldwin said.
The federal complaint calls the commission a “widely corrupt entity,” citing scandals and criminal charges against former administrators and investigators.
The city declined Hawaii News Now’s requests for comment on the ongoing case.
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