Hard Rock Hotel in Dominican Republic to remove liquor from minibars

"The safety and health of our guests is now, and has always been, our highest priority," the hotel said.
Image: FBI Begins Investigation After 9th American Tourist Dies In Dominican Republic
The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

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By Ben Kesslen

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in the Dominican Republican announced it is removing liquor dispensers from all guest rooms after the deaths of Americans that have shaken the island's tourism and raised concerns over the use of unregulated liquor.

At least nine American tourists have died while vacationing in the Dominican Republic in the last year.

While the causes of death are not clear in all cases, investigators are looking into bootlegged and unregulated alcohol as one of the sources. Toxicology reports are still pending.

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In its statement Friday, the Hard Rock Hotel attributed the deaths at its Punta Cana resort and elsewhere on the island more broadly to natural causes and pre-existing conditions, but said the hotel is taking the step to remove alcohol from room minibars based on "guest feedback."

"The safety and health of our guests is now, and has always been, our highest priority," it said.

The Hard Rock Hotel also announced it will be contracting with a U.S.-based health care facility to provide its guests with more comprehensive medical care.

A State Department official told NBC News on Tuesday that "we have not seen an uptick in the number of U.S. citizen deaths reported to the department," and that while reports of tourists dying are causing concern, nothing unusual is going on in the Dominican Republic.

The island nation's tourism board held a press conference Friday and stressed the high standards to which it holds the country's tourism industry.

"We are a model for global tourism," the board said. "Here we are talking about nine people, but there are countries in the area where 10 times the number of Americans have died there. But all eyes are on us."

The Dominican Republic welcomes more than six million tourists a year, more than two million of whom are from the United States.

Last week, Vittorio Caruso, a U.S. citizen, died in the Dominican Republic, but the details of where and how remain unverified.