Sponsors of the monthly First Friday event in Chinatown are taking steps to make sure alcohol consumption doesn’t spill onto city streets.
On Friday evening, members of the Arts District and Merchants’ Association passed out flyers urging revelers to keep their alcoholic beverages indoors. The flyers read, “Preserve First Friday, no alcohol beyond this point.”
"Everybody's watching to make sure that people are keeping their drinks in drinking areas," said John Cannizzaro, who distributed flyers to revelers along Bethel Street.
The proactive approach by the ADMA comes after community leaders in Chinatown circulated a petition urging city officials to examine the issue of outdoor alcohol consumption during the monthly celebration, now in its seventh year. The petition generated more than 500 signatures, and was delivered to Mayor Peter Carlisle Aug. 27.
“When it starts getting busy and packed, they start stepping outside with the drinks and then they start getting obnoxious," said Dolores Mollring, a member of the Downtown Neighborhood Board, who was among the first to sign the petition.
The September First Friday event drew a larger crowd than normal, as ukulele maestro Jake Shimabukuro wowed a crowd along Bethel Street during his free live performance atop the Hawaii Theatre marquee. The event was a celebration of the theatre’s 90th anniversary.
“This is great, this is wonderful,” said Mollring, “It's bringing the families down. It’s when the families go home (that) it becomes a drink fest.”
First Friday regular Daisy Byun of Kaneohe said she can see how residents who live in the area would be bothered by the alcohol consumption, noise and littering that results from so many people converging upon a 12-block area.
“If I lived here, I would have those same concerns, and I would want to make sure that the streets that I live in are livable,” Byun told KITV4.
However, First Friday supporters say many of the problems raised by critics are caused by businesses that have no connection to the event.
"We have rules; we have strict enforcement,” said Burton White, artistic director and general manager of the Hawaii Theatre, which holds a liquor license. “It's hard to know where people are getting their liquor, where they're being served their liquor (or) if they're drinking it out of their cars.”
The ADMA has taken steps to ensure First Friday events are as safe as possible. The association pays $2,300 per month for insurance, special duty police officers, porta-potties and barricades to detour city buses away from busy Hotel Street.
ADMA president J.J. Neibuhr said association members are keenly aware of the growing pushback from area residents, and have always done their utmost to keep alcohol consumption indoors.
To date, there’s been no response from city officials to the petition generated by Chinatown residents and business owners.