HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – The state land board approved emergency rules Thursday prohibiting alcohol at Ahu O Laka, commonly known as the Kaneohe sandbar, during the upcoming Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends.
Holiday celebrations at the sand bar have gotten out of control in recent years. Hundreds of people flock to the sand bar to soak in the sun and suck up the suds. Binge drinking had led to fights and one of those fights recently left a man dead.
"We have seen countless incidents of people out of control due to alcohol and drug use," said Kaneohe resident Leialoha Kaluhiwa who testified before the Board of Land and Natural Resources.
The land board accepted testimony as part of its effort to curb the raucous behavior. The board felt it had to do something after an alcohol fueled altercation at the sandbar Memorial Day erupted into a brawl at Heeia Kea Pier. Maka Torres, 26, died after being injured in the fight.
"So in order to curtail this we know we have the two major three day weekend holidays coming up, 4th of July as well as Labor Day. We'd like to engage in emergency rule making to prohibit the consumption of alcohol," DLNR boating administrator Ed Underwood told the board.
Initially the land board considered a proposal to ban booze on all weekends for the next 120 days. But sand bar regulars said that unfairly would punish them.
"It's unfortunate that a few bad apples kind of spoil the whole bunch," said Patrick O'Toole, a boater who opposed a broad prohibition on alcohol.
"All the problems that do happen out there, if you look back through all the years, they all happen on three day weekends," added Doug Correa Jr., a boater who frequents the sandbar.
The board agreed. Instead of implementing a law banning booze all weekends, it limited the prohibition on alcohol to this year's three day Fourth of July weekend and this year's three day Labor Day weekend.
The law forbids consumption and possession of alcohol at the sand bar. It says no one at the sandbar can be intoxicated nor engage in disorderly conduct. People who are caught violating the new rules are subject to fines ranging from $50 to $1,000.
It's a temporary fix. Now the board will begin drafting permanent rules aimed at making the sandbar safe and enjoyable.
"This decision gives us the tools to go out and deal more effectively with the problem causers while allowing the public the use of Ahu O Laka in a responsible way," DLNR Director and Chairman of the land board William Aila told reporters after the new law was adopted.
When drafting permanent rules the board will consider legislation governing dogs and noise at the sandbar. It may take a look at having people purchase permits before visiting the sandbar. Money generated by those permits could be used to pay for law enforcement to keep the parties in the bay under control.