Group protests Pro Bowl beach party over alcohol exemption

Published: Jan. 30, 2016 at 10:02 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 31, 2016 at 2:25 PM HST
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Annie Moriyasu
Annie Moriyasu
Linda Wong
Linda Wong
Randie Baker
Randie Baker

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A group of protestors held signs at the NFL's Pro Bowl beach party Saturday, saying the city's decision to allow alcohol at the Queen's Beach event is unfair.

Kapiolani Park Preservation Society member Annie Moriyasu, Linda Wong of the Diamond Head-Kapahulu Neighborhood Board, and members of Free Access Coalition stood outside the VIP tent and spoke to passersby.

"The main crux of the protest is this so called one-time exemption the director made on the city's behalf is really just the beginning," Moriyasu said.

On Thursday, city Parks Director Michele Nekota made a one-time exemption to allow the NFL to serve alcohol in a private tent to VIP sponsors and their guests at the Pro Bowl event.

Under city law, alcohol consumption is normally prohibited in all city parks and beaches.

"You and I can't drink on the beach, so why should the high-class athletes and those who make a lot of money be allowed to drink on the beach?" said Wong.

Community leaders say it's more than just about the drinking. On Saturday, beach goers were surprised to find an additional 2,800 square feet of beach roped off to the public, something Moriyasu said was not mentioned in the permit.

"The permit said that they were only going to use x number of feet and there would still be beach access," said Moriyasu. "They're occupying virtually all the bottom of Kapahulu groin."

NFL staff told Hawaii News Now that they remain in compliance with the city's rules. The Mayor's office said the beach-sand area was authorized on the Parks Permit, but was not authorized for liquor service. Liquor service was restricted to the confines of the 60' x 40' canopy VIP Tent and was enforced by private security and Honolulu Police.

The NFL say they just wanted the expected crowd of 10,000 people to have a good time during the free event.

Some residents and visitors said the alcohol exemption makes it seem that the NFL is being given special treatment.

"Being a mother and it being a kid-friendly event, I don't see it necessary," said Randie Baker, who is visiting from Seattle.

Meanwhile, the protestors say they're afraid Thursday's ruling will set a precedent for other alcohol-serving events in public parks and beaches.

"This so-called exemption is really opening the door," said Moriyasu. "It's not a one-time event. They're just going to push it and push it and push it."

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