‘Please open us up,’ Hawaii businesses plead as stay-at-home order enters third week

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — It’s been about three weeks since Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced a second stay-at-home order for Oahu. Since then there has been confusion over what businesses are considered essential and can stay open versus the non-essential stores that must stay shuttered.

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Mayor Caldwell spoke to retail businesses Monday. The businesses suggested only those not following the rules should be closed down.

“We spent a lot of time talking about fairness, you know and just shutting down the businesses that aren’t following those protocols. It’s hard to figure out where that is,” said Caldwell. “But much of this is unfair. I apologize for that, but how do we make sure that the virus is managed and not spread?”

Sherry Menor-McNamara President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii said guidelines need to be consistent throughout the retail industry, whether it’s a major chain store or a small mom and pop store.

“That’s not a reason to keep our local business community closed,” said Menor-McNamara. “While we acknowledge it is challenging, we don’t understand why our small businesses can’t remain open when they’re selling similar products as big businesses.”

Thomas Sorensen, owner of local furniture store Inspiration said under the mayor’s orders they are not even allowed to ship online sales unless they use another shipping service.

He said he has lost millions because he has been forced to close, while big box competitors have been allowed to remain open.

“Please open us up,” said Sorensen. “Any day. One day, two days, three days, or maybe a week before that, that they are telling us, would help us tremendously. That would really make a huge difference for us.”

Chamber of Commerce Hawaii has been meeting with the mayor and said it continues to work on finding different ways to provide financial relief for struggling businesses.

“Again, it’s asking for a level playing field, asking for fairness and applying the same policies consistently across the board,” said Menor-McNamara.

At Monday’s press conference, Mayor Caldwell did offer a potential timeline for reopening some non-essential businesses.

“We’re hoping by the end of this week we will be announcing a new order that will open-up things and retail will be one of the first things to open,” said Caldwell.

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