Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said Tuesday that the National Football League’s permit to serve alcohol at its private party at Queen’s Beach last weekend was a one-time exemption.

But the mayor did not rule out additional alcohol-serving private parties at Oahu beaches and parks in the future.

“It depends on the event,” Caldwell said.

The Friday morning scene: Not only does the party venue block the grassy part of Queen’s Beach; it extends all the way to the beach itself. Marketers for the NFL had promised the public would not be blocked off from the beach.
Not only did last weekend’s party venue block the grassy part of Queen’s Beach, it extended onto the beach itself. Denby Fawcett

Critics protested when the city allowed the NFL to rope off a tent at Queen’s Beach in Waikiki to serve wine, beer and mai tais to its Pro Bowl sponsors and their guests Friday and Saturday. The city also permitted the NFL to close off nearly 3,000 square feet of sandy beach in front of the party tent where it set up rows of lounge chairs for its VIP guests.

Under city law, Oahu residents are forbidden from consuming alcohol in public parks and beaches.

Alethea Rebman of the Kapiolani Park Preservation Society said the city allowing the NFL the exemption to serve alcohol to its VIP guests was “pure special interest.”

“When the city made this one-time exemption, it made it clear it may happen in the future,” Rebman said Tuesday. “And the exemption was made over majority opposition. And it’s crazy when you start blocking off sections of public beach.”

Rebman and more than 30 others at a hearing Jan. 8 urged the city not to give in to requests from private groups to serve alcohol in public parks.

The mayor said the Pro Bowl’s activities at Queen’s Beach this year were similar to events the Pro Bowl has hosted in years past along Kalakaua Avenue.

He said he hopes the Pro Bowl — the NFL’s annual all-star game — comes back to Hawaii next year. He says it brings in more than $30 million worth of business and promotes Hawaii as a visitor destination to the thousands of people who watch it on TV.

Caldwell talked about the NFL alcohol-serving issue during a news conference called Tuesday to discuss progress the city is making on its Ala Moana Beach Park renovations.

City Parks and Recreation Director Michele Nekota was also at the news conference. She declined to talk about granting permits to private groups who want to serve alcohol on Oahu beaches and parks in the future.

She said the NFL had obtained all the proper permits required under current law to have its party.

The Parks Department gave the NFL’s event planners a facilities use permit and the NFL’s party planners received a  Honolulu Liquor Commission permit in a little over 24 hours after the non-profit SHAKA Foundation applied Wednesday for the permit as a sponsor of the party.

When a non-profit organization applies for permission to serve alcohol, it does not have to appear before the Liquor Commission panel.

About the Author