Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr. left no doubt about his thoughts on Bill 2635, which allows the sale of alcohol at the Wailua Golf Course via roving concessions. He doesn’t like it and stated such in a statement last month.
“As the Mayor of the County of Kauai, I cannot support this bill for several reasons. First and foremost, the bill would put the safety of our residents and visitors at risk. Secondly, there are liability concerns. Lastly, it would require additional staff to monitor the expanded operation. For these reasons, I intend to veto Bill No. 2635.”
The mayor submitted his veto in late December.
The mayor does not stand alone.
Police Chief Darryl D. Perry is equally adamant this is a bad bill that was approved by the council, by a 6-1 vote, in mid-December.
He points out that since taking office as Kauai’s chief of police in October 2007, there have been hundreds of car crashes.
Since 2012, police here have arrested almost 1,200 drivers for driving under the influence of alcohol. Of those collisions, 63 were very serious crashes resulting in 69 deaths on our roadways. Alcohol, Perry pointed out, was a contributing factor in over 30 percent of the traffic fatalities.
“The victims were family members, friends, and visitors to our island home,” he wrote in a guest commentary published by TGI.
Perry noted that a law that allows alcohol to be sold to golfers out on the course is a safety issue, and should not be about economics.
“While alcohol is allowed in many venues, our leaders should not contribute to what is already a growing problem where a drug — yes, alcohol is a drug — is allowed to be consumed in a public environment to the detriment of both that person, and potential innocent victims,” Perry wrote.
“No matter how it is rationalized, the overall impact of allowing more alcohol to be served at the Wailua Golf Course adjacent Kuhio Highway is a very bad decision and detrimental to the public we are sworn to protect.”
And, we should note that Mel Rapozo, council chair, was the one vote against this bill when it was passed Dec. 14.
“I did a lot of research, and no other county-owned golf course allows the sale of alcohol for liability reasons. To me, that’s important,” he said.
So, we have three of Kauai’s top officials and community leaders taking a strong stance against Bill 2635.
We could argue for another point of view.
We could note that golfers are already drinking during their rounds. Just check the trash receptacles at any tee box. They’re usually littered with beer cans. This is, as Councilwoman JoAnne Yukimura pointed, unregulated drinking which is prevalent on the course. This has long been the case on almost any public golf course.
We could point out that this might even be a better way to monitor drinking on the course and perhaps even, by that line of thinking, improve public safety. We’re not legal experts, but it seems if there is a liability issue with golfers drinking and then driving, the county has one whether they approved a concessionaire to sell alcohol or it did nothing about people bringing their own beer.
We could note that the county subsidizes the Wailua Golf Course to the tune of about a $1 million a year, and perhaps beer sales could generate more revenue for the county and it wouldn’t be using taxpayer money to provide affordable golf for locals.
We could also add that the sale of alcohol will improve business at the course restaurant, Over Par Bar and Grill, and help it to succeed, as keeping restaurants open at the course has been a past challenge.
But at the end of the day, if the mayor, the police chief and the council chair are all against this bill, those are the voices of a lot of years of experience speaking. They are the island’s leaders in key posts for a reason. To dismiss their concerns would not be wise.
This is such a time it would be best to listen to them.