ABC Board Punishes Tourists And Servers With Strange And Silly Restrictions
I thought I knew Hawaii’s bizarre drinking laws pretty well.
You can’t have two drinks in front of you at once, so if you are at a bar you must fully finish one before being served another. (If you want a “back-up” beer you can’t get one but you can, oddly, order a pitcher. Last time I checked there’s more beer in a pitcher than in a bottle or single glass.)
You can’t order a shot and a drink at the same time. You have to order a shot, drink it, and then order a drink.
But this one caught even me off guard.
I got a beer from a popular bar in Waikiki Beach but when my friends arrived it so crowded we could not find a place to sit and chat. So we went to the more sedate bar – owned by the same company – upstairs. It’s really a sister restaurant to the one downstairs.
Well imagine my shock when the waiter, and then later the manager, told me I could not be drinking that beer in their bar.
It’s basically the same place!
Even more confusing, I was welcome to finish the beer from the lobby outside the bar (this place is in a hotel, like many bars in Waikiki).
Just to be clear, I was in violation of the law for drinking a beer inside a bar, but was perfectly legal to be outside the bar drinking it.
Naturally, I complied and even preferred to be leaning against a comfortable elbow-high wall as I was talking with my friends. The waiter and manager were friendly and we all joked about it. And here’s the thing, too, about the oddball Hawaii liquor laws: The bartenders, waiters, waitresses and even managers have to explain all these silly rules to dazed and disbelieving customers.
They must do this with a smile on their faces even as customers may argue a bit trying to figure out if what they just heard is correct, and then as they try and make some sense of it. But it’s a lack of sense, really.
Oh, and get this – the rules are different on each island in Hawaii. In Maui, for example, you can’t walk into the bathroom with your drink. Well that’s fine if you’re at a table with friends who can watch it but if you are at a dance bar are you really going to leave your drink unattended at a table by the toilet?
My local friend explained that the Hawaii ABC board has the rules in place because they can. And they are looking for anything to fine bars – especially in Waikiki – because fines mean, well, more money for the ABC board. Of course! Now it makes total sense.
So when you are in Hawaii and Waikiki in particular, note the bizarre Hawaii drinking laws and be patient with your server.