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HONOLULU -- An investigation of O'ahu retailers conducted by Mothers Against Drunk Driving for the state Health Department showed the number of merchants willing to sell liquor to minors has dropped slightly, according to a report in the Honolulu Advertiser.
Minors participating in the investigation successfully bought liquor from 22 percent of the 396 merchants approached this year, compared with 26 percent in 2002, 19.2 percent in 2001 and 39.3 percent in 2000, the first year of the survey.
The increase between 2001 and 2002 may have resulted from the Health Department's decision not to publicize the 2001 survey, according to Elaine Wilson, chief of the Health Department's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Division. Merchants may have been less aware that the surveys still were being conducted and, therefore, less cautious.
"We wanted to see a downward trend, and now it is going back down, and that's good," she told the newspaper.
The MADD decoys -- volunteers between the ages of 18 and 20 who carried identification showing their true ages -- visited convenience stores, grocery stores, liquor stores, gas stations and a number of mom-and-pop stores. In small establishments, which ranged from fish markets to delis to tiny convenience stores, 67 percent of the clerks or proprietors agreed to sell liquor to the minors, said Donna Gutierrez, MADD youth program manager.
The minors were able to purchase liquor in 26 percent of the liquor stores, 23 percent of the gas stations, 22 percent of the grocery stores and pharmacies and 19 percent of the convenience stores, the Honolulu Advertiser reported.
Honolulu police officers followed the MADD decoys and issued citations to clerks who sold alcohol to minors. The investigation revealed: Clerks who asked for identification declined to sell to minors 91 percent of the time; 33 percent of the clerks in stores that posted "We Card" signs sold alcohol to the decoys; only 15 percent of the clerks in stores that did not post the signs sold to the minors.
Clerks were more likely to sell to 20-year-olds than to 18-year-olds, and were more likely to sell liquor to a minor when the store displayed materials promoting alcohol sales. Female decoys were able to purchase liquor from 22 percent of the stores, while males were able to do so at only 6 percent of the stores.
In Honolulu, such violations can result in a fine of up to $2,000 and up to one year in jail, Maj. Bart Huber of the HPD juvenile services division told the newspaper. Liquor-license owners face an additional penalty of up to $2,000 and revocation or suspension of their licenses.