HONOLULU (KHON2) — Restaurant owners across the island have been seeing a drop in customers and sales the past couple of weeks. They said they are being impacted by a slowdown in tourism and Safe Access Oahu.

As restaurants began to recover from the losses of 2020, many of them took another hit.

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Rick Nakashima, partner operator of Ruby Tuesday Hawaii and Gyu-Kaku Hawaii, said he noticed a steep decline in sales ever since Safe Access Oahu was introduced. The program requires sit-down restaurants to ask customers for proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test taken 48 hours prior to dine-in under Honolulu orders.

“When the Safe Access program started 15 days ago, we really felt that,” Nakashima said. “We dropped another 40% to 50% off of really poor numbers already.”

Walk-up businesses like The Butcher and Bird located inside Salt at Our Kakaako is also feeling the loss. Owner Charles Wakeman said since customers order and leave within 15 minutes, they are not required to follow the vaccination program, but they remain affected due to less foot traffic.

“The added layer to going out for something that is going to be supposedly leisurely and fun and something that is kind of a treat, it’s taking away from the experience,” Wakeman said, “and I think a lot of people are just deciding to stay home and ride it out.”

The City’s Communications Director Tim Sakahara said they have received positive feedback about the program from certain businesses.

We have heard from numerous businesses who have reported the Safe Access Oahu program has been effective and appreciate the measure as it provides guidance and gives people added confidence the establishments are safe. We have also heard from businesses who are not required to implement the program, but have voluntarily enacted a Safe Access Oahu policy as they believe in the safety measures it puts in place.

We understand the challenges our local businesses are facing with the pandemic and lower travel related numbers. Safe Access Oahu was implemented in part to prevent community spread of the disease and prevent a shutdown, which would have had a much greater impact on businesses. We are encouraged by the declining case counts and hospitalization rates and continue to monitor current conditions in order to adjust appropriately. Adjustments will require the approval from the State.

Tim Sakahara

Meanwhile, the Hawaii Restaurant Association Executive Director Sheryl Matsuoka said she has heard from members who are seeing revenue cut in half compared to 2019.

“We understand at one point, we were at a thousand a day, and that’s really scary now that our numbers are reducing,” Matsuoka said. “We’re hoping that some of those mandates can be lifted.”

Get more coronavirus news: COVID vaccines, boosters and Safe Travels information

Safe Access Oahu was introduced on Sept. 13, with the program set to expire after 60 days of its implementation.