HONOLULU (KHON2) — Honolulu’s nightlife is slowly making a comeback, but that does not mean it is business as usual.

Any restaurant or bar can face a shutdown if customers are not following COVID-19 rules, so a Chinatown business owner has resorted to using a mock dancing fine to keep customers in line.

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A chalkboard with COVID-19 rules sits next to the bar menu at Manifest. It is hard to miss the $2,000 dance fine for clients who decide to break social distancing rules.

Owner Brandon Reid says he has not actually charged anyone a $2,000 dance fine. He said it started mostly as a joke and a fear tactic to get customers to follow State and County COVID-19 rules during the pandemic.

“We’ll walk away and they start dancing, they’ll want to start mingling, we have to comeback and remind them,” Reid said. “And at a certain point, we point to the sign and they see their face change, this is how serious it is because we can’t take on any more of these additional costs to run our operation.”

Restaurants and bars may only provide seated table service under Tier 3 of Honolulu’s reopening strategy. Customers are not allowed to intermingle with other groups or stand at the dining area or bar.

Reid said, he wants to avoid any sort of trouble with City inspectors, even if he has to use a $2,000 fear tactic.

“There are so many different regulations, we have all these different agencies that are coming through the door and looking for different things,” Reid said. “Thankfully we have been meeting all of their expectations, otherwise we wouldn’t be here right now.”

The Honolulu Liquor Commission has cited 60 businesses in 2021 for violating the mayor’s emergency order, resulting in a 24-hour shutdown for each violation.

Murphy’s Bar and Grill owner Don Murphy said a 24-hour closure could cost a business thousands, yet another reason to get customers to follow the COVID-19 protocols.

“It’s very important,” Murphy said. “If somebody is from the liquor commission or health department whatever and they are violating the rules, we can get shut down for 24 hours with this emergency thing going on, and that can cost pretty dearly.”  

Both restaurant owners call for more transparency from the City and State when it comes to deciding COVID-19 rules.

Dancing and nightlife would technically be allowed once Honolulu reaches Tier 4 of its reopening strategy.