Bill would make Honolulu first jurisdiction to require that nightclubs, bars keep Narcan on hand

Some Honolulu bars, like Proof Social Club in Chinatown, already do.
Published: May. 16, 2023 at 3:58 PM HST|Updated: May. 16, 2023 at 4:10 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the number of fentanyl overdoses soars on Oahu, the City Council is debating whether to arm bartenders with Narcan, a nasal spray that can reverse an opioid overdose.

A bill before the body would make Honolulu the first jurisdiction in the country to mandate all bars, night clubs and restaurants that serve alcohol have Narcan on site.

Some Honolulu bars, like Proof Social Club in Chinatown, already do.

Owner Jasmine Mancos said business is finally getting back to normal following the pandemic.

“It’s definitely picking up,” she said. “We do a lot of live music. DJ’s. Different shows.”

But as Honolulu’s nightlife returns, fentanyl has become an emerging threat to the social scene and beyond.

“It’s definitely an issue,” Mancos said. “Not just with bars and night clubs, but restaurants and really, anywhere you go nowadays.”

It’s the reason the bar’s owner makes sure a bottle of Narcan is always within reach.

“This is where we keep our first aid kit,” she said, as she pulled the large metal box off a shelf behind the bar. “We have our two doses in here.”

She says she got it after hearing about an overdose that happened at a taproom in Keeaumoku.

“One of our regular customers here was working at another bar and they had an incident there,” she said.

“So she contacted me. And let me know that Hawaii Health and Harm Reduction has free Narcan and asked if we wanted to keep some behind the bar. And I said, ‘Absolutely.’”

City Councilmember Tyler Dos Santos-Tam says, “When alcohol and opioids mix, there can often be negative interactions.”

It’s why he proposed the bill that would require bars, nightclubs and restaurants that serve alcohol to have Narcan.

“We also want to make sure there’s somebody on site that’s familiar with how to use it,” said Dos Santos-Tam.

Health officials say if Narcan is given to a person who isn’t experiencing an overdose, it won’t hurt them.

That said, the proposed law would still protect anyone who administers the nasal spray from getting sued.

Dos Santos-Tam said, “This is just like using an AED if someone’s having a heart attack.”

The current bill proposes a fine of up to $200 for businesses that don’t have the overdose antidote. It’s still unclear how many doses of the nasal spray would be required.

There’s also questions about who would be responsible for paying for it.

“We’re working with the Department of Health to see if they could provide the additional starter doses,” Dos Santos-Tam said.

Back at Proof Social Club, Mancos stressed the importance of quick action when an overdose is suspected.

“Just get this administered. Call 911,” she said, holding the bottle of Narcan.

The bar owner says these days, being prepared is critical.

“As much as nobody wants anybody doing drugs in their restaurant and their bar, I think it’s safe to say that nobody really wants anybody passing away in their bar,” Mancos said.

If the bill is passed, the law could go into effect as soon as January 1.