Safety a priority at Aloha Tower
Despite a slightly tarnished image and increased scrutiny by the Honolulu Liquor Commission and local law enforcement, it's a good bet that Aloha Tower Marketplace will be the safest venue in town on Friday night.
According to all accounts, everything was running smoothly early in the evening of Aug. 11 at the Waterfront at Aloha Tower Marketplace. Opening acts Jah Maoli, Kimie, Micah G and Common Kings had the crowd itching to kick things into overdrive with "Hawaii's Most Wanted" headliner Tarrus Riley, and he didn't disappoint.
'Island Summer Massive'
With Three Houses Down, Fiji, Nesian N.I.N.E., Maoli, Siaosi, Hot Rain and Na Drua
» Where: The Waterfront at Aloha Tower Marketplace
» When: 6:30 p.m. Aug. 26
» Cost: $28
What was unfortunate, however, was the violence that broke out during Riley's set — and apparently spilled out into the Aloha Tower Marketplace parking lot after security removed the troublemakers. In this age of smartphones and social media, a video clip from that evening was quickly posted online and spread like wildfire. (The clip also helped the Honolulu Police Department make arrests in the case.)
The situation immediately caught the attention of the Liquor Commission, who had staff at the concert that night. During a meeting last Thursday, HLC administrator Bert Nishioka told commissioners Wesley Fong, Patrick Kobayashi and Michael Yamaguchi that he had attended a meeting with Aloha Tower Marketplace property managers and a representative from the Waterfront, along with reps from HPD and the Department of Public Safety. At the time, Nishioka said the licensee (the Waterfront) was "seriously reviewing events" and even "contemplating canceling" two upcoming concerts, Friday's "Island Summer Massive" and next month's "Alohalaulea."
Thankfully, it doesn't look like things are going to go that far. After speaking again with Nishioka this week, along with the Waterfront's Rick Schneider and promoter Keahi Perreira, one thing was certain — there will be a significantly increased law enforcement presence at the show.
"I think everybody is going to be on edge because of what happened. … (But) if things work out how I think they're going to work out, there will be a major police presence," said Nishioka. "We're intensely involved in the situation. … And I think steps were taken by the licensee in conjunction with the promoter, to make sure this doesn't happen again."
Schneider echoed those sentiments this week via email.
"We at the Waterfront have spent a lot of time assessing what happened and what adjustments we can make to continue to provide for the safety and enjoyment of our audience," he wrote. "As a result, we have changed security companies and, to show we will not tolerate anti-social behavior, we are heavily increasing security for upcoming shows.
"We have always been committed to providing a safe and enjoyable venue for music, entertainment, and private functions and we are redoubling our efforts to insure that that is the case. … We are looking forward to Friday being a safe and enjoyable event as all our past events have been, with the one notable recent exception."
According to Schneider, Friday's concert has been changed from an 18-and-over event to being open only to those 21 and older. The change eliminated a need for separate "over" and "under" areas at the Waterfront, which is incorporated to ensure no underage drinking takes place inside the venue. Refusing entry to those under 21 years old should also mitigate the issue of illegal underage "pre-partying" in Aloha Tower Marketplace parking lots and the surrounding neighborhood.
"We're definitely aware of the situation," said EKM Records co-owner Perreira, whose company is helping to produce and promote the "Island Summer Massive." EKM was also one of the promoters involved with the Riley concert, so he was acutely aware of the negative vibes the fight video was spreading both online and in real life.
"Our shows are meant to be safely enjoyed," he added. "We don't want people to feel like they're in danger at all."
Perreira and his business partner, Shane Awai, have been active on a public Facebook group page called "Stop the Violence at Concerts," with Awai posting on Aug. 20 that "security adjustments (were) made" and Reliant Security would be providing 30 people at Friday's show, along with a large contingent of HPD officers and State Sheriffs. EKM will also add 10 "personal security staff" to the mix.
The heavy police presence should have a chilling effect on any troublemakers in the crowd at the Waterfront on Friday — but music fans should also consider this fair warning that the normal shenanigans people try to pull at concerts (smoking marijuana, sneaking in flasks of alcohol, etc.) will probably be dealt with more severely than at shows in the recent past. This heightened security level will also apply to next month's "Alohalaulea" concert.
"We'll still have to take precautions," said promoter Raymond Ho Jr. "At all 'Mayjah Rayjah' shows, we implement a bunch of stuff to help keep everyone safe. We do bag checks at the door and pre-band those who want to drink so there are no conflicts inside.
"This stuff may not seem like much, but it matters. We try to check all the problem people before bad things happen. None of our (six) shows we've done have had a fight so far. And I'd like to keep it that way."
Jason Genegabus is Entertainment Editor/Online at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and has covered the local nightlife, music, bar and entertainment scenes since 2001. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.