Liquor control cracking down for prom, graduation

In an effort to curb underage drinking around high school graduation and prom celebrations, the Kaua‘i County Department of Liquor Control has several programs in place, states a press release from the office of the mayor.

The department’s Compliance Check program implemented five years ago has resulted in a dramatic reduction in the number of retailers with liquor licenses who sell alcohol to minors.

“We started out with a 39 percent failure rate and it has since dropped to about 12 percent,” Eric Honma, director of the Department of Liquor Control, states in the release. “Hopefully, it will go down even more.”

Honma’s goal is to have the failure rate decrease to five percent or less.

“In the interest of public health and safety, we need to continue the Compliance Check program until it reaches a very low level,” he said.

The program calls for a minor to enter a retail store accompanied by an undercover police officer and a liquor investigator, Honma says. After making a selection from the liquor case, the minor goes to the checkout and attempts to purchase the alcoholic beverage.

If the cashier asks for identification, the minor shows a valid ID. If the transaction is completed in spite of the buyer being underage, the police officer cites the cashier for selling liquor to a minor, punishable by a fine of up to $2,000, a year in jail or both.

The store will also be prosecuted before the Kaua‘i Liquor Commission and face a fine of up to $2,000, suspension or revocation of its liquor license, the release states.

During a compliance check conducted in April, seven of 53 Kaua‘i retailers with liquor licenses were cited for selling liquor to minors.

Honma says the liquor commission is developing a training program for retailers.

“Since we can’t tailor the sessions to fit a particular profile, we try to cover several different facets of the issue, including how to identify a false ID, how to calculate a birth date, the importance of asking for an ID and what to look for,” Honma states in the release.

Similar to compliance checking, the department’s OnnPremise Licensee Program requires a specially trained minor accompanied by undercover police to attempt to purchase an alcoholic beverage at a bar, club or restaurant.

The commission also uses the Shoulder Tap program, where a specially trained minor asks someone to purchase liquor.

Honma says the Shoulder Tap has not lead to many citations.

“In general, minors are having a harder time buying liquor these days,” he says. “However, we plan to continue with the programs that are in place. We feel that our efforts are helping to save lives and prevent injury.”

The commission says that while underage drinking is a year-round concern, graduation, holidays, prom season and summer are considered the periods when underage drinking is more prevalent.

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