Minors buy alcohol in 47% of test sales
Honolulu's top liquor official calls the survey results "distressing"
STORY SUMMARY »
The Honolulu Liquor Commission sent underage people into an Oahu bar or restaurant last year some 225 times, and on 106 occasions the undercover drinkers were served alcohol.
The 47 percent rate was called "distressing" by Liquor Administrator Dewey Kim Jr.
The information is contained in a preliminary survey report, done by the commission and the University of Hawaii, released yesterday.
"We've taken the position really that this type of thing has to stop. ... Forty-seven percent is pretty high," Kim said.
FULL STORY »
Nearly 50 percent of underage drinkers, working undercover for the city, bought an alcoholic drink at a bar or restaurant on Oahu last year, according to the Honolulu Liquor Commission.
The percentage of alcohol sales to an underage person posing as a drinker in the Liquor Commission's undercover project:
2007: 47 percent
2006: 35 percent
2005: 35 percent
2004: Not available
2003: 41 percent
» 327 violations were issued last year for selling to minors.
To report liquor law violations, call the Honolulu Liquor Commission's hot line 24 hours a day at 768-7363.
The "distressing" percentage was found in an annual survey, called Team Plus, of drinking establishments, and could be linked to growing violence, said Liquor Administrator Dewey Kim Jr.
A preliminary survey report, done by the commission and the University of Hawaii, was released yesterday.
Liquor Commission investigators went to bars, restaurants and lounges with undercover decoys who were under 21 and tried to buy alcoholic drinks. Establishments were either cited for violations or given warnings.
In 225 attempts, underage decoys bought alcohol 106 times.
"In almost 50 percent of the cases, people are not asking for ID, and they're selling liquor," Kim said. "We've taken the position really that this type of thing has to stop. ... Forty-seven percent is pretty high."
Teens as young as 16 have been found drinking in establishments, Kim said. Parents have called the Liquor Commission to complain about their children coming back drunk from a bar or club.
An establishment can be fined up to $5,000 for a serving a minor alcohol. The commission may suspend or revoke a liquor license if a business has repeat violations. There are 1,400 licensees in Honolulu.
Underage drinking also has sobering consequences, Kim said. More teens are ending up in emergency rooms with alcohol poisoning, and some have had their hearts stop beating but were revived, he said.
As establishments sell alcohol to underage drinkers or oversell alcohol, there is a corresponding rise in fights inside bars and in parking lots, he said.
Club Komomai is scheduled to appear before the commission today for selling liquor to Steve Wilcox, a 19-year-old man fatally stabbed in the bar's parking lot in June. Club Komomai's owners were not available for comment yesterday; its phone was disconnected.
Kim said the Kaneohe bar served Wilcox alcohol before his death. "If the bar didn't serve him alcohol, he wouldn't have been there," he said.
Despite projects like Team Plus to combat underage drinking, some businesses continue selling to minors because it is profitable. The business grows as word of its underage sales spread, Kim said.
"We can tell, based upon how many altercations at the bar, how big the line is outside, if a bar is selling to kids and over-serving," he said.
After enforcement the lines shrink, he added.
To crack down on violators, the commission has a 24-hour hot line and investigators working every night.