The city Department of Parks and Recreation announced it will not permit alcohol to be served at Queen’s Beach.
However, it did grant the NFL a one-time only request to do so at a Pro-Bowl-related event this weekend.
Initially, the proposal was to allow up to four events a year, but a public hearing held earlier this month drew strong opposition. Critics still aren’t happy with the ruling, and call it special legislation.
Right now, work crews are putting together the makings of a massive outdoor party that will be open to the public. Next door, there will be a private party that will be cordoned off for VIPs, where alcohol will be served.
It’s something that has been approved by both the parks department and the Honolulu Liquor Commission.
“The announcement carving out the exception for this VIP cocktail party was made really too late to be challenged. It’s an unusual decision and they already had their tent set up,” said Alethea Rebman, president of the Kapiolani Park Preservation Society.
The city responded to Rebman’s statement, saying “it’s up to the City Parks Director and it doesn’t have to go through the City Council.”
The city heard from the public in both a public hearing on Jan. 8, and in writing.
There were 51 testimonies against changing the rules, and 11 testimonies in favor. The city says that’s why it did not adopt the rule change but is instead giving a one time exemption for the Pro Bowl event.
“Usually these things go to the city council when they want alcohol in public, so that seems a little bit like an end-run. I don’t know if it’s a technical violation,” Rebman said.
A city spokesman says this exemption does not have to go through the city council, and it is within the city parks director’s jurisdiction to make the ruling.
The permit was actually given to a non-profit organization that will benefit from the event, which also expedited the process.
“For me to deny this applicant, I would be treating them differently from all the others because if the paperwork is in order, they are non-profit, we grant the license,” said Honolulu Liquor Commission administrator Don Pacarro.
Up to 250 people are expected at the party, mostly NFL dignitaries, sponsors, and invited guests. Alcohol will be served from 7-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, strictly beer, wine, and mai tais.
Critics say another part of the problem is once you allow this to happen, there will be more events planned, even at other beaches, and there will be no way to stop it.
“It certainly sounds like they could and I don’t know if it’s better to make ad hoc exemptions or to have a policy,” Rebman said.
KHON2 asked the city if this could happen again and a spokesman says other groups may apply.
Parks and recreation director Michele Nekota issued the following statement:
“The Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) has declined to adopt proposed rules that would allow alcohol to be served in limited areas at Queen’s Beach up to four times a year.
“DPR held a public hearing on Friday, January 8, 2016 on proposed rules and regulations that would limit the dispensing of intoxicating liquor, in conjunction with another public, permitted recreational activity at Queen’s Beach, to four times a year, subject to additional restrictions. DPR considered and found valid comments on both sides. The proposed rules would have applied to specific requests to serve alcohol at events, to be considered on a case-by-case basis, subject to conditions that address health, safety, security, and any other issues that impact the public.
“At the public hearing, the DPR received 17 testimonies opposed to the rules, and nine testimonies in favor of the rules. After the hearing, there were 34 testimonies submitted in writing opposing the rules, and two testimonies supporting the rules. After reviewing all the testimony, DPR has decided not to go forward with the rules as drafted at this time.
“Should the department take up the issue again in the future, another public hearing will be held and the public will be given at least 30-days notice before the hearing date as was done previous to the January 8 hearing.
“The dispensing of intoxicating liquor is currently permitted by city ordinance if a liquor permit or other governmental permit is obtained. It’s important to note DPR does not allow the unpermitted consumption of alcohol in city parks. The NFL has submitted a request, through a non-profit organization, for DPR to consider an exception under ROH Sec. 40-1.2(b) to serve alcohol on January 29 and 30, 2016 (see below). The department has granted this exception request as long as the NFL receives the proper permit from the Liquor Commission and abides by the rules and conditions of that permit. The NFL has also acquired a Facilities Use Permit through the Department of Parks and Recreation.
“Under this exception, we are requiring the applicant to abide by conditions that are listed in the proposed rules, such as adequate security, liability insurance, site plan, stand-by ambulance, and prohibiting the service of alcohol to anyone under the age of 21.”
Sec. 40-1.2 Prohibition in public areas–Exceptions.
(a) No person shall possess, other than in a container in the manufacturer’s sealed condition, intoxicating liquor on any street or sidewalk, or in any public park, public playground, public school ground, public off-street parking area or any building located thereon.
(b) The prohibitions contained in subsection (a) of this section shall not apply to: (1) Intoxicating liquor procured from a vendor dispensing intoxicating liquor pursuant to a permit or license issued by the city when the intoxicating liquor is possessed or consumed in a manner and in a place consistent with the terms and conditions of such permit or license; (2) The consumption or possession of an intoxicating liquor in a motor vehicle upon any public street, road, or highway; or (3) The possession of a container of wine authorized to be removed from liquor-licensed premises pursuant to HRS Section 281-31(q), provided that the container has been corked or resealed.
(c) Subject to the provisions of HRS Chapter 281, as amended, and if the sale and consumption of intoxicating liquor is permitted by concession agreement, the prohibitions contained in subsection (a) of this section shall not apply within the licensed premises (as described in a liquor license) of concessionaires of the city located: (1) On any public golf course; (2) At those facilities and properties under the jurisdiction and supervision of the director of enterprise services; (3) In public parks where private donations were used to construct a memorial pavilion wherein restaurant operation is feasible.
(d) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a), any director of an outdoor theater which is enclosed by a fence and which is located within a public park may permit the consumption of intoxicating liquor within the confines of such outdoor theater, if so requested by a tenant of such outdoor theater for the term or period of such tenancy and under such restrictions and conditions as may be imposed by said director.
(e) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a), the director of the Department of Parks and Recreation may permit nonprofit organizations which sponsor and conduct festivals that promote ethnic traditions, customs, and culture and foster the development of tourism, to sell intoxicating liquors within Kapiolani Park by designating one day during Aloha Week during which the sale of beer and wine is permitted between the hours of three p.m. to nine p.m.; provided, that such nonprofit organizations have properly obtained the appropriate park permits and temporary licenses for the sale of intoxicating liquor. (Sec. 13-4.2, R.O. 1978 (1987 Supp. to 1983 Ed.); Am. Ord. 03-31)