‘I don’t know how any business can survive’: Safe Access Oahu could push more businesses to the breaking point


HONOLULU(KHON2) — It’s now day two of the Safe Access Oahu program, which requires proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to enter many Oahu businesses. Some restaurant owners are getting nervous about what the program will mean for the future of their businesses.

Monday marked the start of the Safe Access Oahu program which runs for 60 days through mid November.

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According to Asher Siles, Island Vintage Corporation director of operations, the first day went really smoothly.

“Most of the guests that came to visit us were already aware of the Safe Access Oahu program,” Siles said. “They had their vaccination cards ready, their QR codes. There were a few guests that just arrived on the island that didn’t have that readily available, but we were able to handle those issues as they came up.”

They set up a kiosk, so anyone without verification could still order food to go.

“We’ve seen a little bit of a drop in our actual dine-in guests,” Siles said. “As far as our business, our local guests have continued to support us and with those take out options, online ordering options they’re still able to enjoy everything we have to offer.”

Waikiki resident Lola Coley was unsure how it would be for her since she’s not vaccinated.

“I was really nervous about it at first cause I’m still unsure about being vaccinated,” Coley explained. “But the Blaisdell is offering free drive up testing.”

She said she went there to get tested Monday, and it was easy. She got her negative results within an hour.

“So I came into the restaurant, and I’m having a good time,” she said.

Coley was dining with her friend Margo Delgado, who is vaccinated.

“As long as she’s okay with getting a test and showing that, it was great for me to hear that she’s comfortable with that,” Delgado said.

In a statement, Mayor Rick Blangiardi said:
“After the first day of Safe Access O’ahu we have received positive feedback from the public and businesses reporting the overall process was smooth and effective. The program is designed to encourage vaccination, help prevent the spread of disease, and provide businesses the opportunity to continue operations without a shutdown. We have also heard from businesses who are not required to operate under the program, but have implemented the guidelines voluntarily, which is encouraged. We will continue to monitor the program as we go through the first week of its implementation.”

Scott Suzui, owner of Tenkaippin restaurant on Kapahulu Avenue said his business is already being impacted by the new rules.

“It slowed down a lot. It slowed down maybe 50% more,” Suzui said. “Already we have a hard time with the social distancing, the 50% restriction. We already cannot make it as small businesses with that. And now because of this new mandate, pretty much I don’t know how any business can survive. If business is just going to keep getting worse, I pretty much have to close down.”

He said he and most of his employees are unvaccinated, which makes it even harder because his payroll has to cover the time it takes each week to get tested.

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“I’m just afraid of what’s going to happen next,” Suzui said.

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