Hawaii Senate to vote on Maui dancing bill

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 4, 2013 at 6:13 pm •  Published: March 4, 2013
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HONOLULU (AP) — After a long day at the beach, tourists may dream of winding down with island music, dancing and a drink or two — but in Maui, drinking and dancing aren't supposed to mix.

Establishments that serve alcohol in Maui are required to limit dancing to dance floors, which have to be at least 100 square feet, clearly designated and alcohol-free.

"It's a safety issue," said Traci Villarosa, deputy director of Maui Department of Liquor Control. "We don't want drinks spilling or glass breaking on the dance floor."

Villarosa says the rules are standard and are meant to keep order in bars and restaurants. But years of protests have brought the issue to the state Senate floor.

The Senate is planning to vote Tuesday on a bill that would require county liquor commissions to define the term "dancing" in response to many complaints about the regulations.

Critics of Maui's dancing rule say that because the county rule doesn't define dancing, it has been applied too broadly and has infringed on people's freedom of expression.

Villarosa says the bill — which has been co-sponsored by 17 of the 25 state senators — is unnecessary. She says the rule is a nonissue because the liquor commission doesn't cite patrons, just businesses, and has never revoked a liquor license over violations.

Some say the rule does affect bars and partygoers on Maui because businesses feel pressured to tell people where to dance and ask them to leave if they don't comply.

"It definitely affects all the businesses around here," said Bock Chase, a bartender at Ocean's Beach Bar and Grill in Kihei.

Chase says that he personally has never told anyone to stop dancing but that he's seen it happen at other bars.

"They try to keep the man down all the time, they have all these stipulations," he said.

Sarah Stern, a bartender at South Shore Tiki Lounge in Kihei, says inspectors from the Liquor Control Commission visit the bar almost every night.

She says she keeps an eye out for who might be dancing where they shouldn't be because she knows that she can be held personally accountable for violations of the rule.