Business owners unsure if bar closure applies to them

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Honolulu mayor said the spike in COVID-19 cases is behind his decision to close down bars starting Friday, but for owners of taprooms that also serve food, it could become confusing to know how exactly the mandate applies to them.

Under Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s emergency orders, a bar is an establishment that primarily serves alcohol, regardless if it sells food.

Caldwell said, “Anyone with a liquor license–that’s a bar–you must shut down. If you are a restaurant with a liquor license you shall stop serving, selling or allowing to be consumed after ten.”

There is confusion among business owners on the term “bar.” It is not included in liquor license classifications.

An establishment that makes 30 percent or more of its sales on food, falls under a “restaurant class,” while selling liquor for consumption on the premise, like a bar, is a “dispenser class.”

[RELATED: Bar owners oppose plans to shutdown industry for nearly a month]

Timothy Golden, co-owner of Village Bottle Shop & Taste Room said his business serves food, but it does not make up 30% of sales. Although his businesses could also function as a restaurant, his classification may not allow him to stay open.

“You can go into a restaurant right now that serves alcohol and has a bar up there and get inebriated at the restaurant,” Golden said. “But because they have a class two license and sell at least 30% of food sales then that’s okay.”

The owner of Murphy’s Bar and Grill, Don Murphy, said they operate as a restaurant with a liquor license. He has not closed since the start of the pandemic, but it has not been business as usual.

Murphy said, “It’s a challenge keeping everybody’s morale up and keep everybody working, and all that. It’s a challenge but we’re doing it.”

Caldwell said the three-week closure will help with enforcement of COVID-19 guidelines at bars. The Honolulu Liquor Commission said there is no training planned at this time, but they will re-evaluate daily operations for effectiveness and efficiency.

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