City closes bars for 3 weeks amid growing spread of COVID-19

Mayor Caldwell orders bars on Oahu to close for three weeks as COVID cases surge

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Under a city order approved by the governor, bars on Oahu are closed for “at least” three weeks as authorities try to rein in a surge in COVID-19 infections.

The shutdown went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

In a news conference Thursday, Mayor Kirk Caldwell said the surge on Oahu is “not a bars problem.” But he said that clusters have been associated with several bars and they remain a high risk.

The city order also bans alcohol sales and service at restaurants after 10 p.m. Those who violate the order face fines or risk losing their liquor license.

The three-week closure of bars is designed to give the Honolulu Liquor Commission an opportunity to develop a program to ensure that bars are following COVID-19 regulations on social distancing, masks and hygiene. Caldwell said after three weeks, the city will reassess to determine if bars can reopen.

On Thursday, the state saw 124 new coronavirus cases, all but four of which were on Oahu.

Caldwell said he doesn’t want to reverse the reopening of the island, but called the triple-digit increase ― for a second consecutive day ― a “milestone.”

“Every day for the past week now we have an increasing number of cases,” he said.

“We do not want to be like California or Arizona or Texas. We ranked at the lowest level for a long period of time. We need to get back to that place and we need to do it immediately.”

Caldwell acknowledged the bar shutdown and alcohol restrictions for restaurants will mean those establishments will be taking another economic hit and that layoffs are all but inevitable.

In recent days, the mayor has pledged to reinstate some COVID-19 restrictions, including the temporary shutdown of bars and a ban on gatherings with 10 or more people.

He has also urged residents to wear masks and maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others.

Bars have faced increasing scrutiny in recent days after at least two were linked to clusters and several were shut down for 24 hours because they weren’t following COVID-19 protocols.

This story will be updated.

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