To slow spread of COVID-19, Oahu bars will now have to stop serving alcohol at midnight

Updated: Jul. 15, 2020 at 4:55 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Going out to a bar or nightclub? Prepare for an earlier night.

Effective immediately, the sale and consumption of alcohol at Oahu bars after midnight is prohibited as part of new restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus.

The change, requested by the mayor and approved by the governor, is meant to crack down on establishments that are flouting social distancing and mask wearing mandates ― and as the state continues to see double-digit increases in new COVID-19 infections.

At a news conference Tuesday, Mayor Kirk Caldwell said liquor inspectors are seeing “troubling situations” at some Oahu bars, including people crowding together without wearing face coverings.

Right now, bars must stop serving liquor at 2 a.m. and cabarets at 4 a.m.

#LIVE: Mayor Kirk Caldwell holds a press conference in Waikiki to discuss the latest response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Posted by Hawaii News Now on Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Caldwell said by pushing the last sales up to midnight, he’s hopeful that establishments will more strongly police patrons.

But he said if they don’t, he’ll ask that the cut-off for alcohol sales be moved to 10 p.m. or earlier.

The governor also approved a request to allow liquor inspectors or police to shut down a bar for 24 hours if after being warned to follow COVID-19 precautions the operators continue to violate mandates.

The tougher restrictions on bars and similar establishments comes amid growing concern about community spread of COVID-19.

But the state has not said any recent clusters are linked to bars. Large clusters have been connected to work training, gyms, nursing homes and parties.

Bars say that targeting bars and not other higher-risk establishments just doesn’t make sense.

“It’s somewhat kind of unfair to bubble everybody into the same group,” said Brian Navarrette, general manager of Hula’s Bar and Lei Stand.

“We understand that there are a lot of businesses out there that are struggling and they might push the envelope, I get it. But I think for us safety even before COVID is no. 1 for us.”

Navarrette says Hula’s takes pride in being known as one of the strictest bars in town.

There are temperature checks, safe zones, and all employees are required to get a food handler’s certificate. But they have fun, too.

“My assistant manager created this safety noodle. Kind of a fun interact way to kind of enforce the rules and add a little humor because we could all use that, right?” Navarrette said.

On Tuesday, the state reported 22 new COVID-19 infections, including 19 on Oahu.

“Better than in other days but still higher than I want,” Caldwell said. “Sometimes I ask myself if we opened up too quickly. I think the answer to that is it’s in our hands, in all of our hands.”

This story will be updated.

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