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Sounding off: Pointing fingers won't solve DUI issue

March 02, 2011|By Kathy O'Connor-Phelps

It is not often I agree with Councilman Keith Bohr. However, I am a downtown resident in support of Bohr's appeal to the City Council regarding Bomburger's alcohol permit, with exceptions ("Bohr appeals permit ruling," Feb. 10). We all know the reasons why some residents do not want Bomburger to have this permit. However, how can we allow one business, such as Ka Shabu, which recently opened, to have an alcohol permit, but deny another such as Bomburger? I knew what I was moving to when I bought my condo in the heart of downtown. We all know as downtown residents that traffic, noise and drunkenness are a way of life.

Recently, there have been two highly publicized concerns regarding our great city: 1) Huntington Beach ranked as No. 1 in alcohol-related traffic accidents ("No. 1 in DUI crash ranking," Feb. 3), and 2) growing concerns regarding Baja Sharkeez especially being responsible for many of the DUIs that police are reporting ("State investigating Sharkeez DUI data," Feb. 3).

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I have problems with both concerns. The story regarding Huntington ranking highest in alcohol-related traffic accidents states that based on a population of 100,000 to 250,000, HB is No. 1. There is one glaring problem with this: That statistic does not take into account that we are a "tourist destination," which significantly increases the population growth. As most downtown residents know, the US Open of Surfing alone can bring in hundreds of thousands of people to downtown. Although any alcohol-related traffic incident is bad, one has to consider that perhaps looking at the population as a whole — that is, including our tourism — is not as bad as first thought.

The second concern is regarding the bad rap that Sharkeez has been getting lately. The concern I have is that the Huntington Beach Police Department has stated that there are DUI arrests coming specifically from Sharkeez. They are basing this information on pulling a drunk driver over and asking them where they have been. That drunk person then says Sharkeez. How is it being verified that the person was actually at Sharkeez just before they were pulled over? Is that the bar they just happen to remember from their intoxicated night out? Or maybe the person was at the Newport Beach Sharkeez before driving into Huntington because it is only a few miles down the road? Punishing a specific bar based on a drunk person's statement does not seem right to me.

Perhaps the solution is not to pick and choose what establishments are allowed to have alcohol permits or point fingers at a specific establishment unless there is actual proof that that it has violated its permit, not based on some intoxicated individual's statement, but to start spending more money on increased DUI checkpoints, undercover police in bars and more of a police presence downtown. Let's keep our tourism flowing but keep our streets safe at the same time.

KATHY O'CONNOR-PHELPS is a Huntington Beach resident.

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