Tuesday, October 12, 1999

City & County of Honolulu

Council bill
would ban liquor
ads near schools

The proposed 1,000-feet limit
will hurt small business,
one critic says

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


Liquor industry people and free-speech advocates are raising questions about a City Council bill that would limit alcoholic beverage advertisements.

The prohibition would make it illegal to display a liquor advertisement within 1,000 feet of any public or private primary or secondary school and any licensed preschool.

When school students are on their way to school, "they should be thinking about their classroom education, not being taught about liquor and alcohol," said Councilman Duke Bainum, who introduced the measure along with John DeSoto and Andy Mirikitani.

The bill is similar to an ordinance approved by the Council two years ago, placing the same prohibition on tobacco advertising.

Gary Dickman, general manager of the Players Sports and Entertainment Club on Alakea Street, said he understands the motivation for the bill but wonders whether it will have its desired effect.

"I don't think liquor should be anywhere near kids," Dickman said. "But I don't think a neon sign in the window is going to tell a kid to go inside and get a beer."

Both outlets of the Players Sports and Entertainment Club -- on Alakea Street and University Avenue -- would have to fall under the bill since both are inside the 1,000-foot mark.

Richard Botti, executive director of the Retail Liquor Dealers Association of Hawaii, called the measure "anti-small business."

"I don't see small liquor stores advertising in the Star-Bulletin," Botti said. "For a small mom-and-pop store, there is no way they can do any other advertising."

Civil-rights attorney Daniel Foley said he opposes the bill because it inhibits free speech but he believes there is legal precedent that might keep it protected from a successful challenge.

The courts appear to have distinguished between commercial and noncommercial speech, making the commercial kind more restrictive, he said.

Nonetheless, he said, "anytime you restrict free speech, it's a serious issue because we take our First Amendment rights very important."

Foley said he thinks a jurisdictional issue may stop the ordinance since the state Legislature allowed for the respective county liquor commissions, not county councils, to create rules on liquor-related issues.

But Corporation Counsel David Arakawa said the state statute on liquor commissions does not preclude the respective county councils from enacting their own ordinances.

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