Berkeley Honda’s pre-game tailgate parties outside Memorial Stadium, which two weeks ago drew several union protesters, might soon get a visit from the State Department of Alcohol Beverage Control.
“If the reports are true that they were giving out free beer, that’s a misdemeanor and definitely something we would actively enforce,” said ABC District Administrator Andrew Gomez.
Last week the Daily Planet published a first person account of the party leading up to the Cal-Arizona football game from pro-union demonstrator Zelda Bronstein, who is also a Daily Planet Public Eye columnist. She charged that Berkeley Honda employee Tim Lubeck was “loudly hawking free beer and ... apparently not bothering to card any of the young people who took up his offer.”
Judy Shelton, a frequent picketer outside Berkeley Honda, said she also witnessed employees giving free beer to passing students without carding them at the tailgate party.
Berkeley Honda General Manager Steve Haworth contended that the party, one of many approved by Cal, adjacent to Kleeberger Field, was an adult-only affair.
“I’m not sure what she was looking at,” Haworth said. “There were no young people drinking beer period.”
Haworth said the party, which is posted on the company’s website, was restricted to the friends and families of Berkeley Honda employees and was part of the dealership’s effort to raise money for Hurricane Katrina victims.
The dealership’s website yesterday advertised free shuttle service between the Shattuck Avenue shop and Cal home games, offering to “host a free tailgate party in the north end zone.”
Haworth has close ties to Cal athletics and hosts benefit auctions for the football, baseball and golf teams.
Since buying the dealership this summer, Berkeley Honda owner Tim Beinke, a resident of the Blackhawk subdivision in Danville, has become embroiled in a bitter strike with union mechanics after the dealership dismissed nearly half of the staff and stopped contributing to the union pension funds. Talks with union officials have been sporadic and the two sides remain in a stalemate.
UC Berkeley Police Capt. Mitch Celaya said that after hearing second-hand accounts of Berkeley Honda giving out free beer he asked the athletic department to review campus alcohol rules with the dealership.
“My understanding is that they know not to distribute to the public,” Celaya said.
Campus rules allow for private tailgate parties with alcohol. To distribute alcohol to people not affiliated with the party, the dealership would have had to apply for special permits, according to Celaya.
He added that police had also asked Berkeley Honda to remove dealership banners on trucks used to shuttle tailgaters from Berkeley Honda to the party.
Celaya said the banners made it difficult for officers at the scene two weeks ago to determine whether the event was a private tailgate party or an athletic department sponsored event, in which case the sponsors would have permits to distribute alcohol.
ABC’s Gomez, who learned about the Honda event from the newspaper story, said that state law prohibits tailgaters from giving out beer to people outside their party or anybody under 21.
“If you’re open to the general public, you need ABC permits,” he said.
Although the university would not be liable for any violations, Gomez said ABC would charge the person giving out the alcohol in such a situation. He added that ABC has patrolled the Oakland Coliseum parking lots and Memorial Stadium before football games to cite minors possessing beer.