Liquor Control Department seeks to split investigator position

  • Patrons fill Huggo's on the Rocks Friday afternoon. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • A cocktail is poured at Huggo's on the Rocks on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Huggo’s on the Rocks bartender Kepa Napalapalai pours cocktails on Friday afternoon. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Staff at Huggo's on the Rocks pump out drinks Friday afternoon. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

HILO — Most of the action at the local watering holes happens at night and on weekends, so that’s when the liquor investigators should be working as well.

That’s the thinking behind a plan to split a currently vacant full-time liquor control investigator position into two half-time jobs. The County Council Finance Committee is scheduled to take up the proposal Tuesday.

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West Hawaii has the majority of the liquor dispensers in the county, with the need for investigators greatest in the Kona area, county Liquor Control staff said in a Jan. 3 communication justifying the plan.

Currently, there are three investigators working in West Hawaii, tasked with checking to ensure liquor license requirements are followed and educating and training licensees about liquor laws, administrative officer Brandon Gonzalez said Friday.

That includes ensuring alcohol is not being served to minors, he said.

The Department of Liquor Control is a self-funded agency that doesn’t receive taxpayer money. Its funding comes solely from application fees and fines.

The department processes a couple dozen new applications for liquor licenses annually and holds training sessions for almost 1,500 employees of licensed establishments each year. The department conducts an average of 1,300 checks of liquor establishments monthly to promote compliance with liquor laws.

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The department is overseen by a nine-member Liquor Commission charged with granting, renewing or refusing any licenses for the manufacture, importation and sale of liquor in the county under applicable laws and regulations. The commission is also empowered to adopt, amend and repeal regulations regarding the administration of county liquor control laws.

Another county board, the five-member Liquor Control Adjudication Board, serves as the disciplinary arm. It’s charged with hearing and determining complaints regarding violations of state liquor law or violations of Liquor Commission rules and regulations and imposing penalties as provided by law.

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