HONOLULU (KHON2) — Wedding industry workers gathered in front of Honolulu Hale Thursday morning, urging Mayor Blangiardi to allow the industry to resume operation under tier 3.
Nearly 50 wedding industry workers gathered, holding signs and waving at passerby’s on a rainy Thursday morning.
“We can work safely,” some of the signs read.
Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi announced loosened restrictions for restaurants, gyms and bars on Thursday, March 11. However, weddings, a billion-dollar industry for Hawaii prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, were not included in the decision.
Weddings are currently allowed to operate with no more than 10 people, but several wedding vendors and industry workers say it’s not enough.
“There’s been many businesses now made open. I’m happy for them. I think what’s frustrating for our industry is we see a lot of parallels. Luau’s and funerals can host any number of people, but we can’t,” said Crichton Uale, a wedding DJ and MC.
“These are fathers and mothers, families trying to make ends meet, trying to put food on the table, trying their best to take care of the kids. They’re all struggling together, not just as businesses but as families,” added Kuldip Shergill, who also MC’s for weddings.
Mayor Blangiardi stepped outside of his office to speak with several workers and hear their concerns.
“My heart goes out to the people in the wedding industry who have been hit by the pandemic and have had their business impacted,” said Mayor Rick Blangiardi. “The feeling is weddings are celebrations and social gatherings where people gather and mingle in close proximity, which can lead to the spread of the virus. However, I am not giving up on the issue and believe there may be a way for the wedding industry to operate in a safe manner. The industry must also know it cannot have rogue events with large numbers of people because that will hurt the chances of moving forward.”
The mayor says the concern with allowing weddings is the social gathering aspect.
“The mayor came right out and it was beautiful because he came out, right in the middle and everybody just surrounded him, and it was just a dialogue. We felt heard. We hope at this point something does get done at the end of the day,” shared Shergill.
Blangiardi stated that his administration will continue discussions with the state regarding the possibility of easing restrictions on the industry, but added that the community needs to do its part in preventing unpermitted social gatherings. He said people must continue safe practices like wearing a mask, keeping their distance and washing their hands.
“We’re not asking to have 1000-person weddings. We want to be able to hold small events. We want to be able to dig ourselves out of debt. We’ve been pleading to reopen since March of last year and saying ‘we will space out, we will have six-foot distancing, we’ll keep it to five a table, everyone will do temperature checks, but let us do it,'” said Uale.
Meanwhile, the State Department of Health released its latest cluster report, highlighting three social gatherings that were believed to be responsible for 31 positive COVID-19 cases on Oahu.
“Hearing about the clusters associated with social gatherings is troubling because it shows people are letting their guard down and not taking the situation serious enough,” said Mayor Blangiardi. “Ultimately, the State would have to approve any easing of restrictions or allowing wedding activity, but that is less likely to happen if there are clusters related to gatherings.”