Changes coming for Hawaii restaurants, bars and gyms

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Changes are coming for gyms and restaurants starting November 12th that will loosen outdoor dining restrictions. But the Hawaii Restaurant Association said more needs to be done.

Governor David Ige’s new emergency order removes capacity limits, currently set at 50%, for gyms, bars and restaurants that require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 48 hours.

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But it still requires restaurants to have six foot distancing between groups for indoor seating.

Victor Lim, the Hawaii Restaurant Association Government Affairs Chair, said it’s not enough.

“Without changing the six foot social distancing guideline, since most of the restaurants in Hawaii do not have outdoor seating, it really doesn’t help the restaurants any, in terms of helping them increase the capacity to be able to serve more customers at any given time.”

The new rules remove capacity limits and distancing requirements for outdoor dining, patrons no longer need to remain seated and masks are not required when eating or drinking outside.

A spokesperson for the Governor said the mandate also allows unvaccinated patrons to dine outdoors without a negative test as long as it is not required by the county.

The Governor said they feel confident since outdoor activities are deemed safer.

“As we’ve dropped restrictions on capacity for outdoor spectator events, we also would be looking to encourage for outdoor dining, that there would be no restrictions beginning November 12th,” Ige explained.

Dave & Buster’s General Manager Andrew Shimabukuro said he’d hoped things would loosen up more for the holidays to give restaurants a much needed boost.

“If we don’t change the restrictions before then it’s going to make it very tough,” Shimabukuro said. “Especially for the smaller locations that aren’t corporate driven, to survive the rest of this year.”

Though replacing the 50% capacity limit with the 6-foot distancing rule will help Dave & Buster’s, Shimabukuro said, it doesn’t benefit small restaurants at all.

HRA wants the distancing requirement cut in half.

“We need to be able to have 3-foot distancing for dining, that will allow us to increase our dining capacity.”

Increasing capacity would eliminate long lines and long wait times for diners and benefit Hawaii’s economy.

“I think it’s time for the restaurants to move forward,” Lt. Gov. Josh Green said. “They’re the life and blood where many make their living. We’re well vaccinated and it’s time to move forward.”

Ige’s emergency order remains in effect until Nov. 30. His announcement comes one day before indoor and outdoor managed events on Oahu can operate at 100% capacity.

During a news conference last week, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi announced a phased reopening plan that lifts COVID gathering restrictions for indoor and outdoor managed events on Oahu, including seated entertainment, interactive events and road races.

The mayor has been in talks with the governor to lift restrictions for Oahu’s restaurants, bars and gyms that fall under Ige’s emergency proclamation. It’s unclear when indoor social distancing rules will change.

“On a going forward basis, we still have our public safety, our public health, as top of mind, but the time has come. The time has come for us to move forward,” Blangiardi said on Oct. 27.

The Hawaii Restaurant Association (HRA) polled restaurant owners on the impact of the delta variant and found results were worse than expected. Results showed that in September and October 2021, 80% of restaurants that were surveyed saw their revenue drop by 30% or more, and 37% have lost over half of their revenue.

The restaurant industry has also been losing staff. The survey found 19% of restaurants said they lost 30% of their workers. Restaurant owners said their employees moved to the mainland where businesses were open, and others did not want to get the COVID vaccine or take a weekly test.

Find more COVID-19 news: cases, vaccinations on our Coronavirus News page

The changes for managed events effective Nov. 3 — and for the second phase effective Nov. 24 — as part of the Safe Access Oahu extension will be in effect through Christmas Day. Blangiardi will then reevaluate.

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