KANEOHE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For the last three years the state has banned drinking alcohol on certain weekends at Ahu O Laka, or the Kaneohe Sandbar. Now the time has come for the Department of Land and Natural Resources to decide whether to make that rule permanent.
DLNR says prior to the booze ban, lots of binge drinking and violence would happen at the sandbar, specifically on long holiday weekends.
"When it first came about was because of a fight that occurred in the harbor where the individual died and that was when we knew we had to do something to try to curtail this activity," said Ed Underwood, administrator of the DLNR Division of Boating & Ocean Recreation.
Underwood is talking about Maka Torres. The 26-year-old Kaneohe man was killed Memorial Day weekend in 2011 at Heeia Kea Pier. The pier is the nearest access point to the sandbar. Witnesses at the time say it was an alcohol-fueled argument that turned into a brawl.
"That day was a normal day, it was actually my first time at the sandbar yeah,” said Maka's first cousin Micah Torres.
“It's just that day…a lot of people got out of hand," he said.
After Maka's death, DLNR imposed a three-year ban in 2012 that prohibited the possession, use or consumption of alcohol at the sandbar's safety zone. The rule also prohibits a person under the influence of alcohol, narcotics or drugs from remaining in, or entering the safety zone, and prohibits disorderly behavior while in the safety zone. It only applies to three-day holiday weekends that include Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day.
“We decided to try it on a trial basis to see how it would work and it worked very well. And that's why we want to make the rule permanent now," Underwood said.
Some people say the rule won't work.
"I do not think there should be a ban. I think there's problems drinking anywhere," said Kailua resident David Bessman.
"At the same time, if you have a DD, you have a responsible adult, it should not be banned. You should just have a DD, a responsible adult to continue drinking and enjoying your weekend," Joey Olida-Gonzalez said.
Micah says his cousin's death still affects his family dramatically. He hopes this rule will be made permanent so another family won't have to feel their pain.
"I'm all for it. I am all for that ban. Like I said, I like to drink, everybody likes to drink, but there's a time and a place and on the water is not one of them," Micah said.
A public hearing will take place this Tuesday, April 7, at the Heeia Elementary School Cafeteria at 46-202 Haiku Road in Kaneohe from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. DLNR is calling on all community members to come forward to voice their opinions on whether the ban should be made permanent.