The restaurant industry in Hawaii is still reeling despite reopening dining rooms. For some, making ends meet isn’t just about thinking outside of the box, it’s about being outside.
With dining rooms at 50% capacity, local restaurant owners have had to become creative like they were on an episode of “Chopped.” Increased seating is buying precious time for many with the city opening sidewalks to dining service.
“Any extra table is giving you the hope of staying alive and possibly doing revenue,” Liko’s Tap & Table Partner Nick Prioletti said.
“It’s still not at a place where people are going to get by doing this, everyone is still hurting, but every little bit helps.”
Liko’s in Hawaii Kai featured outdoor seating before the pandemic but has been able to add a beer garden, helping bartenders and customers feel safe. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “indoor spaces are more risky than outdoor spaces” when it comes to COVID-19 transmission.
“We serve it that way for food and drinks but it gives those bartenders who lost so many drinks at the bar the ability to bring in some extra sales and take care of their regulars,” Prioletti said.
The Hawaii Restaurant Association says the city’s sidewalk permitting can be tough because there has to be ample space.
“I have seen it on Waialae Avenue at Surfing Pig and there are requirements to it,” HRA Executive Director Sheryl Matsuoka said.
“They have to be able to give accessibility to pedestrians and wheelchair so there is that three foot that you have to give allowing pedestrians walkway.”
The HRA is helping owners navigate the permitting process by providing translators when needed, similar to what they’ve been doing with PPP paperwork.
“We got translators Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, we have all the different translators. That can assist any of the restauranteurs to maneuver through all of these new mandates and clarifications and changes in guidance and rules,” Matsuoka said.
No matter what changes a restaurant makes, their future will depend on the customers.
“Every restaurant needs every table they have to make it and with this COVID-19 stuff it’s really just taken a lot of revenue away from restaurants,” Prioletti said.
The HRA has a “Keep Calm Carry Out” campaign that lists take-out or dine-in options for 1,100 restaurants that can be sorted by zip code.