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Waikiki bar is sued over alleged attack

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World champion canoe paddler Karel Tresnak Jr. has filed a lawsuit in Circuit Court, asking for more than $80,000 from the Shack Waikiki to cover medical costs stemming from an alleged assault by a bouncer in April 2009.

"I just want some kind of justice," Tresnak said yesterday at a news conference at attorney Richard Turbin’s office. "What happened to me shouldn’t happen to anybody."

The lawsuit comes four months after the Honolulu Liquor Commission ruled in February that the Shack did not break a city rule requiring bar owners to suppress violent activity on their properties.

According to acting Administrator Anna Hirai, the Liquor Commission did not believe the evidence presented was sufficient.

"The allegations in the hearing were not sustained based on the facts presented," Hirai said.

At the commission hearing, Shack management said reports of violent incidents stopped after April 2009, when the establishment sought help from a security consultant. According to Shack spokesman Patrick Bullard, the bar has since improved security and hired off-duty law enforcement officers to train the staff.

"There have been some issues that have become public, so the Shack had to step up to do everything they can to run a good business and protect their customers," Bullard said yesterday.

Bullard also questioned the timing of the lawsuit’s filing. Next month the Liquor Commission is scheduled hear a measure that would force the Shack Waikiki and another bar in the Waikiki Trade Center to stop alcohol sales by 2 a.m., two hours earlier than allowed by their permits.

"How often is it that when someone files a lawsuit, they call a press conference?" Bullard said. "Is there some other motivation here?"

Attorneys for the Shack Waikiki declined to comment pending review of the case.

According to the suit, Tresnak was grabbed from behind by a Shack bouncer who locked him into a tight choke hold on the morning of April 4, 2009. Tresnak lost consciousness while being carried outside and was allegedly dropped face-first onto the sidewalk fronting the bar. Tresnak said he was not drunk and did nothing to provoke the attack.

Following the incident, the uninsured Tresnak was rushed to the Queen’s Medical Center for treatment and has since undergone more than eight hours of surgery to repair his teeth and jaw. He is also suing for income loss because the injuries prevented him from competing in a number of canoe championships, where he has been a fixture for more than a decade.

Although the Shack Waikiki was cleared in Tresnak’s case, Turbin said the incident is indicative of a disturbing pattern of violence at the Waikiki establishment.

Tresnak "was the victim of a dangerous situation that happens in Waikiki almost every night," Turbin said. "The Shack has a history of its employees committing violence against its customers."

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