The city is also seeking new nominees for a commissioner vacancy.

The Honolulu Liquor Commission voted in Sal Petilos as its new administrator Thursday.

Petilos had originally been nominated to join the commission itself, but the nomination was deferred because he did not meet the state requirement that county liquor commissioners must have lived in the county for the last three years. Petilos moved to the state in July 2021.

There is no such requirement for the position of administrator, which oversees the daily operations of the commission, said Ian Scheuring, deputy communications director for the City.

“We shifted our thinking and Sal was open to serving as the administrator,” he said.

Honolulu City and County Liquor Commission seal.
The Honolulu City and County Liquor Commission was found in a recent review to have low staff morale and a heavy reliance on outdated filing systems that have hampered enforcement efforts. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019)

Petilos takes over a beleaguered liquor commission that was recently the subject of an internal review that found it had poor data management practices, inadequate policies and procedures, and low staff morale. The commission is also currently being sued by an LGBTQ+ bar in Honolulu alleging discriminatory enforcement by commission employees.

Sal Petilos takes on the administration of a beleagured commission that needs to update its systems. (Provided: City and County of Honolulu)

In a press release, the city cited Petilos’s more than 10 years of experience. He most recently led the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

An article in the Salt Lake Tribune reported that Petilos oversaw the streamlining of internal systems in the agency and pushed the move towards stronger beer into grocery and convenience stores. But the agency also dealt with a shortage of bar licenses and high employee turnover, issues currently bedeviling the Honolulu Liquor Commission.

Petilos had been nominated to join as a commissioner along with Lisa Martin, who’s nomination was delayed because she also did not meet the residency requirements. Martin’s appointment is expected to be to the city council for a vote towards the end of the year.

Scheuring said that the city is actively looking for a new commissioner nominee.

“The administration is looking for highly qualified people with integrity,” Scheuring said, adding it’s looking for “someone who will bring positive leadership element to the commission, as we continue to try to rebuild the trust there.”

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