HONOLULU (KHON2 ) — The Safe Access Oahu program goes into effect on Monday, Sept. 13, and requires all employees, contractors and volunteers of businesses to show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative COVID test result each week in order to operate.
These businesses include restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters, museums, arcades and other similar establishments.
Customers must also show proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID test result taken within the previous 48 hours in order to enter the establishment. Children under 12 years old are exempt.
Many business owners have mixed feelings about the program, but most say they will comply because they want to stay open and keep their staff employed. Others do not want to discriminate and are taking a different approach.
“This is kind of a double whammy for everybody,” said Jacqueline Hansen, Beet Box Cafe general manager, about the mandate and the drop in tourism happening at the same time.
Bars and breweries are also going to take a hit because, starting Monday, businesses that offer liquor must stop selling at or before 10 p.m. — including on weekends.
“We are going to lose some revenue not having that last hour of sales and making sure we’re 100% clear and making sure everyone is out by 10 p.m.,” explained Joe Lorenzen, Waikiki Brewing Company brewmaster.
He said they explained to customers that they will either have to bring their physical coronavirus vaccine card, a photo of the vaccine card with their ID or a negative test result.
“We’re just doing our best to stay open and keep everyone employed. We definitely — at least for the first week — we’re going to make sure we have a manager at the door with the host to make sure we can talk to people, explain our policies and procedures and do our best to make it as smooth for everybody as possible,” he said.
Beet Box Cafe in Kailua will switch to take-out only starting Monday; their Haleiwa location has outdoor seating but will also mostly be take-out.
“This way, we are able to still service our loyal patrons and our communities without discriminating against those that are or are not vaccinated,” Hansen explained.
Hansen added that they have already received phone calls from upset customers who said they would stop giving them business if they followed the mandate.
“It was pretty shocking and unfortunate to hear,” She said.
Switching to take-out could also impact the restaurant’s staffing.
“There’s a lot of fear and a lot of concern for my employees that they’re going to be losing shifts, possibly all their shifts,” she added. “Everybody depends on this income. So with these mandates, business does tend to slow down a little bit, and we do our best to keep everybody employed and fully staffed.”
She said non-vaccinated employees will be tested every week using antigen tests.
UFC Gym said they will freeze memberships for those who cannot provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test, and they will not accept any exemptions. Some gyms have already required their clients to be fully vaccinated.
“We’ve been ahead of the curve, we’re a fully vaccinated gym,” said Benjamin Wilkison, The Jungle Gym Owner. “Our clients were willing to do their part as soon as they rolled out vaccines.”
“For me, it has always been a concern, not so much for myself getting sick, but me getting any of my clients sick. So that’s always been my number one concern,” he said.
Wilkison trains first responders, doctors, nurses and small business owners. He said it was easy to make the switch to vaccinated customers only.
“We lost a couple of 1099 trainers that didn’t quite share my view on the pandemic and all the things we have to do to stop the spread, but that’s going to happen with anything, and we understand this vaccine isn’t a silver bullet, but we understand it is a step in the right direction,” Wilkison added.
At the end of the day, most businesses just want to get back to normal.
“I think if there’s anything we’ve learned the last year and a half at this point it’s to be resilient and be ready for anything and roll with the punches the best we can,” Lorenzen said.
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Businesses that do not comply with the mandate can be fined up to $5,000, face one year in prison or both, and those with liquor licenses that do not comply could be shut down.