Step up sting operation on bars serving minors
A sting operation has found a sizable increase in the percentage of minors who are able to successfully order drinks in bars.
LIQUOR sales to minors on Oahu declined after the Honolulu Liquor Commission began periodic sting operations six years ago, but such illegal sales now are on the rise. Undercover operations that last several months might need to be conducted year-round to combat the problem.
The commission began the sting operations in the summer of 2002 and found that 70 percent of liquor-license holders served alcohol to minors. A sting in the fall of 2003 found that hotels, bars and restaurants served 41 percent of minors who ordered a drink. In 2005 and 2006, the survey called Team Plus, for Preventing Liquor Underage Sales, found that 35 percent of decoys under 21 were able to be served alcohol.
However, in last year's stings, 47 percent of underage decoys were able to buy drinks at those establishments. Dewey Kim Jr., the city liquor commissioner, said the decoys, some as young as 16, were able to be served 106 times out of 225 attempts.
An establishment can be fined up to $2,000 for serving a minor and can have its liquor license suspended or revoked after repeat violations. Establishments are either cited for violations or given warnings, but those records should be reviewed to determine the level of forgiveness. Increased use of fines should be able to pay much of the cost of year-round stings.
A crackdown on bars will not end the problem of underage drinking. A recent national survey revealed that 650,000 minors during a one-month period were given alcohol by their parents or guardians.
A recent survey indicates that more than one-third of high school students in Hawaii had at least one alcoholic drink during the previous month, and 20 percent had engaged in binge drinking during that period. In 2005, minors consumed 7.2 percent of all alcohol sold in the state, totaling $66 million in sales.
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