Retailers, restauranteurs call on city to ease restrictions so they can stay afloat

Community advocates asking the city to reconsider blanket restrictions, fear shutdown could permanen

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the stay-at-home order enters its second week, some Oahu restaurants and businesses fear their temporary closures could become permanent.

In a news conference Friday hosted by Councilmember Heidi Tsuneyoshi, retailers and restauranteurs said they’re struggling to stay afloat and fear going under before the end of the year.

They’re asking the city to reconsider blanket restrictions that inhibit their businesses.

“It’s never been where there has been a group of people who came into our stores and got infected by COVID-19,” said Retail Merchants of Hawaii President Tina Yamaki.

“Yes we did have a couple employees who were infected, but we closed it down, we cleaned our stores.”

Retailers and restaurants say they have learned to adapt to the new norm by investing thousands in making sure they’re following all COVID-19 health and safety measures.

Yamaki said there are no resources available for this second shutdown.

“There are hardly any businesses loans out there anymore to help businesses and it’s really sad, we’re struggling right now,” said Yamaki.

“And you hear this every week, every day pretty much that someone is going down,” said Hawaii Restaurant Association Affairs Chair Victor Lim. “It’s very sad.”

Asked whether the shutdown would be extended beyond a second week, the city responded:

“We are evaluating on a daily basis the status of the healthcare system, contact tracing capabilities, test positive rate, case counts, and other factors such as patterns of transmission (are they in clusters or unlinked cases? What populations are being affected) to determine best course of action.”

Meanwhile, members of the Sierra Club of Oahu are pushing to have outdoor spaces like hiking trails reopened since people who use them are typically spread out.

“Nearly six months into this pandemic and there’s been very little evidence of the virus spreading among people outdoors,” Hannah Hubanks, vice chair of Sierra Club Oahu.

“This is especially important during a period where public schools are closed and children don’t have access to other playgrounds or private playgrounds or may not have a private backyard,” added Dana Lyons, executive committee member of Sierra Club Oahu.

The city agrees that outdoor exercise is critical to mental and physical health and said they are working on a way to safely allow access to public spaces, but only if people do not gather.

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