Restaurants, events loosen restrictions; staffing shortages remain an issue


HONOLULU (KHON2) — On Wednesday, Dec. 1, restaurants and events will no longer need to follow social distancing or capacity limits. However, staffing shortages remain an issue.

No more social distancing is something restaurant owners have been asking for a very long time during this COVID pandemic, but managers said they will keep some things in place — like dividers — to make sure customers feel comfortable as things start to get back to normal.

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Restaurants will finally be able to operate at full capacity without having to space out tables.

“It’s really exciting to be able to open up at 100% seating again, without the six-foot distancing,” said Rick Nakashima, Ruby Tuesday and Gyu-Kaku Hawaii partner.

Guests also do not have to provide their personal information when they dine starting Wednesday.

“We no longer are required to ask people for their contact tracing form,” said Joseph Rondon, general manager for Doraku.

A spokesperson for Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said, “It’s about getting on the other side of this dreaded disease.”

Additionally, Wednesday is the first day that restaurants Maui will be also allowed to operate at full capacity and without social distancing guidelines that were put in place in 2020.

Maui Mayor Michael Victorino said they feel confident loosening restrictions. At the same time, they are aware of the Omicron variant and will be monitoring it and continue to act thoughtfully according to the advice of medical experts.

While customers still have to wear a mask and show proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test, Andrew Shimabukuro, the general manager of Dave & Busters, said it is a step in the right direction.

“We are almost back to normal other than, you know, of course, checking for vaccination cards and testing at the door,” Shimabukuro said. “But other than that, mingling is allowed. Drinking your beverages while playing games are allowed. Pretty much everything is allowed.”

Some places, like Doraku, plan to keep barriers in place to ease customer concerns. They do not think easing restrictions will deter customers.

“Definitely more people will go out. I’m completely sure about that,” Rondon stated.

Many places expanded outdoor dining areas due to the pandemic — now, they can put more tables back inside, which is better because it means they can serve more customers and cut down on seating wait times.

“Our biggest challenge right now is staffing up in the kitchen. We have had a problem for, actually, well before the pandemic. And the pandemics made it even worse,” explained Nakashima.

Nakashima said it is a tough spot to be in, but they will figure it out.

Find more COVID-19 news: cases, vaccinations on our Coronavirus News page

Events at the Blaisdell Center and Waikiki Shell can also operate without capacity limits, as well as serve food and beverages. Also, indoor commercial events on Maui planned for more than 75 participants will still require an exemption.

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