Although the immediate threat to Kihei Kalama Village's (KKV) bustling nightlife has subsided after a contentious proposal to ban entertainment there after 10 p.m. was voted down, bar owners and property management must now heed the warnings of the Maui County Liquor Commission (LC) and follow through with the action plan they presented at the March 14 public hearing. (See "South Maui Bar Owners 'Face the Music'" in last week's Maui Weekly.)
Prior to the highly publicized general LC meeting, information surrounding the proposal stirred a variety of emotions for the business owners, employees and patrons within the area referred to by many as "The Barmuda Triangle."
Leading up to the meeting attended by over 100 concerned Maui residents, KKV bar owners--who rarely collaborated on anything--worked together as a unit to establish a plan with proposed solutions, violation consequences and revived procedures to "decrease and/or eliminate" the noise complaints which brought them before the LC that fateful day.
Neighborhood compromise. The recent LC hearing’s mood was tense yet hopeful as Kihei Kalama Village bar owners, property managers and security heads squeezed into the small room with some of the very residents whose complaints brought them there. Although, the adult playground of “The Barmuda Triangle” is safe for now, heavy responsibility now lies on the shoulders of the liquor licensees to implement their action plan.
"We're very happy that the Liquor Commission has listened to the testimony of the neighbors, bar owners and private citizens and did not implement the ban ," said Maui Commercial Realty Vice President Jeff Gerard, a property management representative working with the licensees. "The Liquor Commission has allowed the Bar Owners Association at Kihei Kalama Village to work with its neighbors and implement a 'Noise Monitoring Action Plan' that we hope will be a win/win solution for all parties involved."
"The proposed amendment pertaining to this matter is serious, and any loss of jobs or revenue can only be attributed to the bar owners' unwillingness to comply with the rules and laws of the Liquor Commission ," Kihei resident Mike Owens testified before the LC.
Owens blamed not only the business owners, but also said the LC bears some of the "responsibility for allowing so many bars in such a small area."
Prior to the hearing, Kihei homeowner Bryan Zoellner expressed his concern with the KKV's volume, revealing the "noise is so loud" it wakes him frequently at his nearby home on Keala Place.
Zoellner, who occasionally visits KKV, but would rather see the area turn into a "restaurant row" rather than a party destination, said he hopes to attend meetings with the bar owners. "It's unfair to ignore the residents in their complaints," he said. "I'm not a lawmaker--I don't have all the answers, but I ask for a compromise."
LC Director Franklyn Silva warned that if there were any "bona fide violations" in the next six months, the commission would take steps to develop a new proposal and regulate the area.
"The action plan will allow the neighbors to have direct input into the acceptable sound levels generated from KKV and allow the bar owners to continue to provide a fun, unique and safe venue in Kihei for entertainment, music and dancing," said Gerard.
After his compelling testimony at the March 14 public hearing, Kaniela Ing, a candidate for State Hawai'i House of Representatives, District 11 (South Maui), said he was happy so many jobs had been saved. Ing felt the community and the KKV businesses were both on the same page from the beginning, and just want "peace at home" and business to continue.
Ambrosia Martini Lounge Owner Candice Seti, currently acting as leader of the KKV owners group, is making efforts to perform sound tests with neighbor representatives, and stresses that all liquor licensees must work together and report to area security. Also, many of the businesses now own their own decibel-level readers.
"You're best to monitor each other," said LC Chairperson Robert Tanaka to the KKV bar owners. "Or one bad apple is going to ruin it for all."
Jaron Blosser of Three's Bar & Grill is working diligently to reduce noise issues stemming from his KKV locale, such as installing new sound curtains, and closing all of the windows and doors.
"All good people are willing to do what it takes to make this work," said Blosser of the other bar owners. "The only problem that we're running into is we can't control the noise of the patrons. So, there will always be some issues."
LC Commissioner Mary-Doreen "M.D." Alborano agreed last week that music wasn't necessarily the noise disturbance, but "rowdy behavior and drunk people" account for some of the problem.
She advised bars to "elevate to higher standards to try to avoid" issues, or late-night entertainment may be lost in "The Triangle."
"If bars set standards, and are reasonable with whom they let in, serve and how incidents are handled, it will help tremendously," said Alborano, a Kihei resident. "If you're getting folks drunk off their butts, who's to say what will happen? Take some responsibility."
Alborano commended Davilyn Alvarado, security chief of Delta Executive Security Hawai'i, for her testimony and temperament at the March 14 meeting. "She seemed very confident with her staff," she said. "She was a force at the meeting, and her and security need to be forces on the scene there [KKV]."
After the LC meeting, Zoellner said he was happy with the outcome and that the owners formed a group. "I would like to have a future plan to make life safer and more appealing to a family-style community," he said. "There are too many bars for our small community I have continued to hear noise, however, not as loud."
"When you get a liquor license, you have a tremendous amount of responsibility," Alborano said. "Teach your staff to be critical, and don't let folks in need to cut more people off, whether they like it or not. Make enemies it could save this area."
Although the LC was impressed with the bar owners and their intent to work together, Alborano warned everyone, including patrons that frequent the area, to "take this seriously." "Because if in six months, nothing has changed... well, you don't want us to come in and control it," she said.