KANEOHE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
The Department of Land and Natural Resources held a public hearing at Heeia Elementary School Tuesday night in which members of the community were invited to testify on whether the temporary alcohol ban at Ahu O Laka, or the Kaneohe Sandbar, during certain holiday weekends should become permanent.
More than 50 people showed up. Of those, 11 people testified, half of them want the ban lifted.
"When people get drunk or disorderly in a bar over a long weekend, go outside on the sidewalk and get into a fight which results in someone getting hurt or worse, does the government shut down the bar for the long weekend?” asked one woman who opposes the permanent ban.
Meghan Statts, Oahu District Manager of DLNR's Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation, says they imposed the ban as a temporary measure back in 2012 after holiday celebrations got out of control. It was put in place for three years to see if the rowdy behavior and illegal activities would go away. She said the trial period worked.
"We're not looking to do every single weekend or every single three-day weekend. It is just Memorial Day, Fourth of July/Independence Day, if it happens to land on a three-day weekend, and Labor Day," said Statts.
Waimanalo resident Andrew Jamila was there when a fight erupted Memorial Day weekend 2010.
"I counted 30 something people fighting and we were trying to break it up, trying to make sense of it, ‘Eh no nuff, nuff.' But people were under the influence already," Jamila said.
The Memorial Day weekend after that, 26-year-old Maka Torres was killed after a brawl broke out at the pier. Jamila was there again.
"To that family, that lost a loved one, can never be replaced. And I hate to say alcohol was at the bottom of it, but it was certainly a factor," said Jamila.
DLNR says that was the moment they knew something needed to be done. But the three-year rule is now up and it's time to decide on whether to make the ban permanent. Public input is a key factor in the decision.
"We're in totally, strongly support of this rule," said one testifier.
“The rule is working, the ban is working," said Jamila to two DLNR representatives.
John Akima, a resident of Kahaluu, says he is worried about what impact the ban will have on fishing tournaments out there because most tournaments fall on those three-day weekends.
"For myself, like I go fishing, I do a lot of tournaments. And we use that sandbar as our starting point or ending point also…and of course, you know, fishermen go out, my crew, they like to drink. I don't drink, my crew likes to drink, so it's its an injustice for us to go out there and not have beer on our boat,” Akima said.
Statts said the public has until April 14th to send in written testimony. She said they will then submit all written and oral testimony to the state Board of Land and Natural Resources. The board will make a decision in May. They will then send a recommendation to the governor, who has the final say on whether to sign it into law.