Street closure, dine-in event opened a new way to experience Chinatown

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Downtown Honolulu is usually no stranger to block parties, but Saturday, July 11, was a different kind of gathering.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell had shut down Hotel Street to vehicles for ‘Dine-in Chinatown’–as has been the case mostly in Honolulu. Business has been desolate in Chinatown since March.

“I would like to see more local people come down to downtown because now what I see is tourists and since Hawaii’s been shut down, no tourist anymore. The business has been really bad and understands that people are still scared of the virus,” said Charm III owner Saranya Hoopai.

Mayor Caldwell’s pilot program on Saturday drew in many local residents looking to get out of the house and try something new.

“I’m really happy with what we’ve seen,” said Mayor Caldwell. “I think we’re helping businesses in Chinatown. We’re helping our residents be able to come out and celebrate life in a safe way.”

There was safety through social distancing as tables were all put six feet apart. Police presence was also evident.

“It feels very safe,” said Ewa Beach resident Sabine Yamamura. “Feels very nice. People are really relaxed, just strolling up and down. It’s almost fun, you know?”

“I feel like it’s safe because we do see a lot of police officers,” said Honolulu resident Jade Botelho.

A cleaner and safer reputation could lead to return guests.

“We decided to come down here as a family,” said Yamamura. “Just cruise around a little bit. We like coming to Chinatown during Chinese New Year and we thought why don’t we come to support the Chinatown community by bringing some business down.”

Mayor Caldwell received some criticism of his own for holding this event and the Open Street Sunday’s on Kalakaua.

“I was concerned. We’re going to go back to our medical panel and reevaluate, and they advised us as long as people are spread apart and wearing face coverings, eating outside is safer than eating inside. So they liked all of that and they said to proceed with caution,” the mayor said.

He says he’ll evaluate how Saturday went to see it if it will happen again. Open Street Kalakaua will continue on Sunday morning from 6 a.m. to noon, every Sunday through the end of July.

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