Bar owners call city’s tiered reopening plan keeping them closed ‘unconstitutional’

Bar owners call city’s tiered reopening plan keeping them closed ‘unconstitutional’
A new lawsuit alleges that the shutdown orders are unfairly forcing the shutdown of many traditional bars. (Source: none)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - More than 100 local bars and restaurants serving alcohol have closed permanently since the pandemic started or given up their liquor licenses.

And a new lawsuit blames the government’s shutdown orders.

“I have done nothing wrong. I have lost my business. I have lost my income, lost 80 employees. I’ve had two businesses close," said Bill Comerford, chairman of the Hawaii Bar Owners Association.

Comerford, who closed O’Toole’s Irish Pub and Anna O’Brien’s, filed the class-action lawsuit.

The suit alleges that the city’s tiered system for reopening is unconstitutional because it unfairly shuts down bars and nightclubs that primarily serve alcohol while allowing bars that serve food and restaurants that serve alcohol — and even strip clubs — to operate.

Shawn Garleipp, of the Creekside Lounge in Kailua, is also part of the suit and thinks the restrictions are unfair.

“It’s a dictatorship. That’s how feel. I’ve been through hurricanes, I’ve been through floods, I know how to run my business," she said.

According to the city Liquor Commission, a total of 116 bars and restaurants serving alcohol have closed permanently or have given up their liquor licenses between March and September.

In the year earlier period, there were 42 closures.

The attorney who filed the lawsuit said there’s more to come.

“So a lot of establishments would have closed a long time ago, cut their losses, stopped their bleeding," said lawyer James DiPasquale.

“I anticipate the longer this goes on, those numbers are going to drastically rise.”

Mayor Kirk Caldwell has argued that bars can’t effectively keep patrons apart and masked once they’ve been drinking. The city had no comment on the lawsuit.

The state said its emergency actions are based on science and fact.

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