Businesses look for leeway in city’s tiered reopening system

Businesses look for leeway in city’s tiered reopening system

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Oahu restaurants are allowed to open, but bars are not. Gyms may operate, but outdoor organized sports aren’t allowed.

That’s the situation with the city’s tiered reopening system.

Businesses that are open must still follow guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But other businesses are frustrated that they can’t fully operate, even if they aren’t involved in any case clusters.

Barbers Point Bowling Center reopened to the public on Sept. 24. It was one of the businesses that was allowed to do so under Tier 1. The Kalaeloa business had closed voluntarily in March, reopened in June, and then closed again in August during the second shutdown.

“Since March, when all of this stuff happened, bowling centers have had zero -- zero cases of COVID,” said Bev Brennan, one of the bowling center’s two proprietors.

Barbers Point joined with other Oahu bowling centers to come up with safety protocols, including having plastic curtains between lanes, completely sanitizing each bowling ball before and after its used, limiting the number of bowlers in an area, and more.

“In between every single customer, if you bowl on lane 11, before we put anybody else out there, we’re going to go down and completely sanitize the entire area,” said the bowling center’s other proprietor, Linda Painter.

Customers said they feel safe.

“I’m glad that I can bowl, that I can spend time with friends,” said Lexton Naehu-Lindborg.

Even though the bowling alley is operating, league play isn’t allowed. Organized sports must wait until Tier 4. Supporters rallied outside Honolulu Hale earlier in the week to get the green light to start earlier.

Visitors have also been allowed back into the state, even if up to seven or eight of them a day may bring the virus in.

A lawsuit has been filed to reopen bars and nightclubs, who say they’re not responsible for the spread of COVID. But the state Department of Health is currently investigating four clusters in Oahu restaurants, involving 35 cases.

Health officials are also concerned about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

“Keep it small, groups of five or less,” said acting State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble. “Use Zoom to connect with other family members over Thanksgiving. You can each be enjoying food, but not in the same space. Or take it outside and do spacing.”

A spokesperson for the mayor’s office said the tier system was developed after careful review by health officials. But “activities and businesses within tiers are not adjustable, and there is no formal appeals process.”

The bowling center’s owners want some leeway.

“Let’s do this,” said Brennan. “We know what we’re doing with our customers. Let us do that.”

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