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Honolulu City Council to Request Legislature to Toughen Liquor Laws

Wayne Yoshioka

Honolulu City Councilmembers are expected to request the state legislature pass measures to toughen liquor laws next session. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports. 

Underage drinking, consuming alcohol on licensed liquor premises after-hours, and regulating unlicensed establishments are all being targeted by the Honolulu City Council.  But, Liquor Commission Control Administrator, Franklin Don Pacarro, Jr., testified last month that there is no law requiring individuals to provide proof or identification when purchasing or consuming alcohol.

“They’re not required.  Many establishments do ask.  And the one that don’t ask and if they sell to a minor, they’re cited and you go to court, it’s a full misdemeanor.  That goes for everyone.  Supermarkets, mom & pops, bartenders at any bar.  The defense I’ve heard is, “Oh.  That’s the bouncer’s job.  They was supposed to check the ID.  And guess what?  The bartender has to face a misdemeanor.”

Pacarro also says unlicensed liquor establishments are not regulated or subject to inspections by the Honolulu Liquor Commission.

“Anyone who has a liquor license, pay their fees, at the end of the year they pay their gross liquor sales assessment and we regulate them.  Now, when you have an unlicensed premises, they don’t pay any fees, they’re not registered and they’re out there on their own, operating.”

The City Council’s Public Health, Safety and Welfare Committee approved two resolutions and draft bills that the legislature could pass to implement more stringent requirements.   Peter Nakagawa is the Liquor Commission’s chief investigator.

“The resolution will address these mandatory presentation of an identification card.  Right now it’s not statutorily required.  This will make it a requirement that they have to check identification.  And for the consumer, to present identification.  Which, in turn, will curb underage drinking since the under 21 identifications are a different shape and format.”

Individuals drinking on the premises of licensed liquor establishments would also have to provide proof of age and identification.  The proposed legislation would also increase the penalty for unlicensed establishments conducting illegal activities to a Class C felony punishable by 5 years imprisonment.  Committee Chair, Brandon Elefante.

“It gives the opportunity for the Liquor Commission.  Right now they have control over licensed liquor establishments and what’s occurring is that you have these establishments that are not licensed thayt may be doing these types of activities.  And it also gives HPD another tool for enforcement with respect to that and the hope is that it will curb a lot of these gatherings after-hours whether they be a licensed or unlicensed liquor establishment.”

The resolutions and draft legislation now go to the full council for consideration November 1st.  Wayne Yoshioka,  HPR News.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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