Bar expansion raises concern
By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer
KAILUA A community leader wants the city Liquor Commission to give more extensive notice when bars apply to amend their license, after a nude-entertainment bar on Maluniu Avenue got the OK to expand.
Porky's Sports Pub was granted permission to expand into an adjoining space once occupied by Four Star Chop Suey, which closed last Wednesday. The site is about a block from Kailua Elementary School, a public library and homes.
Liquor Commission administrator Wallace Weatherwax said approval was granted according to proper procedures after a June 19 public hearing.
Such hearings are publicized on the commission's Web site and on meeting agendas the commission sends to the Neighborhood Commission and other interested parties a week before the hearing.
Pohai Ryan, executive director for the Kailua Chamber of Commerce, said the hearing went unnoticed by the community. She said she would like better notification, something similar to when a business is seeking a liquor license for the first time. In those cases state law requires the business to mail notices to at least two-thirds of homes and businesses within 500 feet of the liquor establishment.
"My biggest concern is the process was unfair to the community," said Ryan, adding that she is pursuing this issue as a private citizen.
Notification, which can cost from $400 to $500, is not required for expanding or altering a liquor business, Weatherwax said.
Porky's abided by the law and the commission adheres to the law as a matter of fairness, he said.
"We're always in the business of balancing business interest versus community interest and it's not that we intentionally try to sneak anything by any community," Weatherwax said. "But the law the way it was written requires the citizen to be vigilant and in this case, Pohai should have been vigilant."
He said altering the law would be a matter for the Legislature.
The bar has been in operation since 1955 as a "nudity bar," the official Liquor Commission classification, and expanding it into the restaurant space doesn't change the liquor use, Weatherwax said.
Bar manager Kathy Ogata said the bar offers "adult entertainment" but would not be more specific.
Ogata said she is aware of the protest but that only one person has expressed concern and no one else has complained.
Ogata said she operates her business according to the law. "I have all the plans, all the permits. This is a commercial industrial area," she said.
Reach Eloise Aguiar at firstname.lastname@example.org or 234-5266.
Correction: When a business is seeking a liquor license for the first time, the business must notify two-thirds of homes and businesses within a 500-foot radius of the liquor establishment. A previous version of this story said another entity was responsible for the notifications.