Liquor sting caught fewer violators in '08


POSTED: Friday, November 20, 2009

The number of bars and liquor stores on Oahu caught selling liquor to underage drinkers fell by about 30 percent in 2008, compared with the year before, according to a survey released this week by the Honolulu Liquor Commission.

“;We are somewhat happy that it's going down,”; said Liquor Commission Administrator Dewey Kim. He said the commission is concerned about underage drinking because it can lead to alcohol and other drug addictions, drunken-driving deaths and fights.

“;We're seeing a lot of people getting in fights, and the fights are much worse than they used to be. A lot of that is pushed by the drinking,”; he said. “;When you're underage, sometimes you have less perspective of the seriousness of getting involved.”;

In 2008, 96 out of 283 liquor establishments surveyed sold alcohol to people under the age of 21, according to a Cancer Research Center of Hawaii survey completed with the help of the commission.





        Alcohol vendors on Molokai have pledged to stop all alcohol sales from 7 to 11 a.m. today as a message to discourage underage drinking.

The youth group Hui Hookupono is organizing the event to raise awareness of companies that boost alcohol sales by targeting minors.


That is a noncompliance rate of 34 percent, compared with a 47 percent rate in a similar survey in 2007.

To conduct the survey, underage decoys tried to buy alcohol, and businesses that did not check for identification were cited.

Kim credits a pilot program called “;Secret Shopper”; with improving compliance by focusing on training employees, rather than citing establishments for violations. In the program, employees who sell liquor to an underage decoy receive more training.

The program works because teaching employees is more effective than citing the business, Kim said.

Foodland Super Market, 7-Eleven and Aloha Petroleum are participating in the program, which will be broadened next year to include other Oahu chain stores.

A company that sells liquor to an underage person can be fined $2,000 or lose its liquor license for multiple violations.

Kim hopes to bring the rate of violations down to single digits. But mistakes in calculating whether someone is of legal age and businesses trying to make a profit by selling to people under 21 are continuing problems, he said.

To solve the age calculation problem, the commission allows some businesses facing fines to buy a license-reading machine instead. The machine requires a license to be swiped to complete an alcohol transaction. If the license belongs to an underage person, the transaction cannot be completed.

Investigators are still struggling with some businesses making money off minors. Kim said there is a trend by which promoters recruit underage drinkers who in turn invite their peers to clubs that sell them liquor.

Liquor investigators are also monitoring online discussions that direct underage drinkers to noncomplying bars and also warns underage drinkers when investigators are around, he said.

Nontraditional establishments are also an avenue for drinkers under 21 to get alcohol. So-called “;bar crawls”; that bus people to several bars and booze cruises where people drink on a boat were found to be catering to underage customers several times, he said.