‘The economy is completely collapsing’: Hawaii small business owners fear second shutdown

Updated: Aug. 18, 2020 at 9:54 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Small business owners are bracing for a second shutdown, as COVID-19 cases continue to soar on Oahu, and some fear they might not make it through this one.

Neighbor Island businesses are calling on the governor to focus on Oahu and not the state.

A recent study done by the Economic Research Organization at the University of Hawaii said Maui County’s economy has suffered the most since the pandemic began.

[Read more: As number of COVID-19 infections soar on Oahu, state says new restrictions are near]

“It’s been insane. Very frightening, especially as a first-time business owner here on Maui. It’s been crazy, unbelievable really,” said Oscar Gonzalez.

Gonzalez opened Refined Kulture in Lahaina in November.

The 25-year-old barber shop owner saw a bright future.

“Saw a nice and steady increase in business every month and when COVID hit, all that hard work gone,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said he went from 13 clients a day to zero after the first shut down.

Today, he has managed to rebuild doing whatever it takes.

“I even talk and joke around with my clients, fishermen clients, I’ll be willing to trade, I’ll cut their family’s hair for fish,” he said.

A recent report suggested nearly 900 Oahu businesses have either temporarily or permanently closed since the first shutdown.

Sherry Menor-McNamara, president and CEO of Hawaii’s Chamber of Commerce, says most others won’t survive a second one.

“If there is another shut down, we hope that and we urge the government to provide some kind of stabilization plan, some kind of temporary relief,” she said.

According to UHERO, it’s going to take until about 2029 to get back to pre-COVID days.

“To shut down the entire state again, businesses are going to die, especially if we’re not the hot spots and not causing the pandemic,” said Tina Yamaki, president of Retail Merchants of Hawaii.

As for Gonzalez, he is hoping the rollback is confined to businesses that don’t comply with the regulations.

“We take pride in sanitation as an industry. I hope we can do a good job in convincing and helping the community see and our government see what we do to put in to keeping our community safe.”

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