Bar owners feel regulations they face are ‘overwhelming’ as closures begin

Updated: Aug. 3, 2020 at 11:43 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - It’s the first weekend since Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell issued his order to temporarily shut down bars, but the decision to do so still leaves many with questions.

Bill Comerford, chairman of the Hawaii Bar Owners Association said owners and business leaders were never given an opportunity to share the impact closures would have on the economy.

Comerford owns four Irish pubs, but because he has a general dispenser license, his doors must remain closed for three weeks.

“I’m actually going to be applying for unemployment on Monday morning. That’s my goal right now because I’m unemployed,” said Comerford. “I can’t pay myself, can’t pay my company, can’t pay my landlords, can’t pay my insurance and my taxes.”

Even owners of restaurants with bars said they understand the city’s actions, but adds that it can be overwhelming.

“There are so many people doing it the right way,” said Dylan Ching, vice president of operations for T S Restaurants on Oahu and Kauai.

“The amount of regulations that are put on us compared to a city park or a beach, it’s just almost overwhelming what we have to do to stay in business,” said Ching.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green understands the risks of transmission within bars but says too much energy is being spent on one thing when much more spread is occurring in parties and at beach parks.

“The obligation should be to then pay some of their overhead so that we don’t lose those peoples’ jobs,” said Green. “We don’t shut them down for three weeks and nobody else, cause what’s the difference right now between a restaurant that sells liquor until ten and a bar that sells food until ten.”

Bruce Anderson, director of the state Department of Health, said restrictions for bars were necessary.

“The bars currently have taken actions to try to prevent the spread, but it’s practically impossible in a bar,” said Anderson. “You can’t drink when you’re wearing a mask and, of course, bars tend to be gathering places for people and people tend to let down their guard after a drink or two.”

A spokesperson for the mayor issued a statement:

“This is not about targeting bars; it’s about protecting public health and safety. After the three-week closure, we plan on resuming targeted enforcement of bars.”

The city encourages bar owners and employees to take advantage of their individual assistance and small businesses relief programs.

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