Businesses call on leaders to form clearer plans to revitalize local economy

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city has said that COVID-19 restrictions will be eased later this week. But what the new rules will be still aren’t clear.

Businesses say the lack of a clear plan is frustrating — but not surprising.

“At this point, I think most of us are numb to the feelings of what’s coming,” said Dylan Ching, vice president of operations for TS Restaurants on Oahu and Kauai.

“At least do something or have some plan that we can see, that’s tangible,” added Natalie Tew, who works at To Thai for Restaurant in Kaimuki.

Last week, the Honolulu City Council discussed the possibility for instituting a “tier system” of reopenings that’s based on the number of COVID-19 cases and positivity rate.

But that system has yet to be officially released.

Gov. David Ige says he has also been working with the city to produce clear guidance for businesses.

“So under shutdown what activities are available and what things would be closed,” said Ige, in an interview with the Star Advertiser. “In the next tier, tier 2, if the virus activity drops below a certain level that these business and activities would be allowed to reopen.”

It’s guidance that restaurants like Duke’s Waikiki have yet to receive.

“It’s hard being open and doing to go, it’s not anything near what anybody needs to survive so that’s difficult on its own,” said Ching. “To be really longing and looking for that time where we can get some kind of dine-in which really helps us is really nerve-racking.”

In an analysis by Yelp, 11 out of every 1,000 businesses in Honolulu permanently closed, one of the highest rates of closures in the nation.

Thousands more businesses are temporarily closed, either because of orders that require them to be or because it doesn’t make financial sense to bring back workers if there are no customers.

“The last two weeks of March, the sales dropped like 90%,” said Tew.

All businesses want now is a clear plan.

“If they are really going to go through with the reopening, I really hope that they’re able to structure it in a manner that’s more organized than what we’re seeing now,” said Lehua Wright, co-founder of Power Yoga Hawaii.

Ige said he doesn’t anticipate implementing harsh benchmarks that would force the re-opening and closing of businesses based of the number of COVID-19 cases.

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