Hawaii restaurants hire security as tensions rise between customers amid new mandates

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — On the Valley Isle, the Maui Safer Outside rules served up a lot more than they anticipated.

“My staff is freaking out about it, like they’re crying, they’re in tears, they’re getting yelled at by customers,” said Javier Barberi, Down the Hatch and Mala Tavern owner. “We’ve had people that, when we asked them about checking their vaccine passport, they’ll get super upset. They’ll cause a big scene, they’ll call us names or say that we’re racist.”

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The situation got to the point where the restaurant had to protect its employees.

“We have to hire extra security at Down the Hatch. We have an aloha ambassador that has to stand there, and we have to pay them. We have to train them and tell them what to do and what to look for,” explained Barberi.

Under Maui Safer Outside, unvaccinated customers have the option to eat in outdoor dining areas, but customers must show proof of vaccination for indoor seating. However, under Safe Access Oahu, customers must show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test for both indoor and outdoor dining.

Honolulu police have responded to a few incidents involving customers who did not provide proof of vaccination against the coronavirus and then refused to leave the premises.

At Duke’s Waikiki, although the restaurant has not had to call the police, they have seen a few customers that created more challenges for staff.

“The person had their vaccination card, but really wanted to try and just be difficult and wanted to use a negative test that was not done at the right time and the timing was off,” said Dylan Ching, vice president of operations for TS Restaurants. “This sort of challenged the whole situation and when it was all said and done, they had a vaccine card. So it just seems to be some people just want to be difficult.”

The Liquor Commission has issued four citations since the start of Safe Access Oahu on Monday, Sept. 13. Meanwhile, Maui police have also issued two citations for violations. Restaurants ask that customers comply with the rules because the consequences will ultimately fall on businesses.

“If we don’t follow it, we could be fined $5,000 or jail time or both,” said Sheryl Matsuoka, Hawaii Restaurant Association executive director.

Their message for diners? Please act with aloha.

“Understand that host, hostess, server could be your child, your niece, your nephew, your neighbor and they’re just doing their job,” said Matsuoka.

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“When they tell us to do something, this is our business, our livelihood. It’s how we put food on the table, we got families that survive off of the money that they get paid. So we have to follow the rules,” said Barberi.

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