Friday, August 20, 1999

‘Booze cruise’ hearing opens
with tales of teens drinking

By Mary Adamski


A 19-year-old man told the Honolulu Liquor Commission that no one checked his age when he bought a beer aboard a tour boat from Kewalo Basin.

The commission began its hearing on alleged "booze cruise" liquor law violations yesterday with testimony from liquor investigators who charged Dream Cruises with illegal alcohol sales to minors on March 27 and June 18.

"It appears there was no control over the service of liquor," investigator Charles Wiggins told commissioners.

He said about 75 percent of the crowd aboard the American Dream appeared younger than 21, the legal drinking age. "I saw a lot of people vomiting, about eight or 10 people writhing sick on the floor in the captain's cabin," Wiggins said.

Casey Rocco, an Army private at Schofield Barracks, testified that he and a friend bought $40 tickets from a vendor on the street in Waikiki and started the tour at the Eurasia club in the Hawaiian Regent, from which they were shuttled to the harbor.

Through a series of terse "yes" answers to defense attorney Charles Brower, Rocco acknowledged they were told that underaged people could not drink on the cruise, and that people who were of legal age were issued pink armbands.

Rocco said he was not wearing an armband and was not asked to show identification when he was sold a beer by a tour boat employee. He was charged with illegal consumption of alcohol and later pleaded guilty in Honolulu District Court.

In his questions, Brower stressed that investigators did not check into whether youthful drinkers had shown fake identification cards. He questioned whether witnesses could identify the ticket sellers making the "booze cruise" sales pitch as employees of the tour company.

Wiggins said the investigation was begun in response to an anonymous complaint that minors were being served alcohol aboard. He said that when the customers arrived aboard four yellow school buses March 27 they were "chanting, shouting expletives" and that he smelled alcohol on them as they filed aboard the boat.

Investigator Samuel Ho, who cited another soldier, Joshua Dawson, 18, for illegal consumption, said Dawson was told by ticket sellers that "he would be able to drink all the liquor he wants once they were out to sea."

Ho said he checked the identification of a young woman who turned out to be 18 years old. "Her statement was that a guy bought her a drink but she didn't know what it was. She said no one checked her ID."

Twenty-three witnesses have been subpoenaed to testify at the hearing which was recessed until 2 p.m. Monday.

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