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‘I hear you’: Wedding industry workers find a sympathetic ear in Honolulu’s mayor

Updated: Mar. 19, 2021 at 10:41 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Oahu’s wedding industry doesn’t have a lot of love for the city’s tier system and ongoing restrictions.

They haven’t been allowed to hold big events for over a year ― and now they’re begging for help.

On Thursday, dozens of wedding planners and others in the industry rallied in front of Honolulu Hale, calling on the city to give them some relief.

“If you talk to anyone in this industry - we’re talking 80% to 90% decreases in revenue,” said Joseph Esser, president of the Oahu Wedding Association.

Erika Kalaikai, a bridal makeup artist and hair stylist, said she largely served brides out-of-state.

“So you can imagine how much bad my business has been impacted,” she said.

The small business owners and workers held signs outside city hall, but emotions escalated when Mayor Rick Blangiardi made a surprise appearance to hear the group’s concerns.

“You know how hard it is to pay bills monthly and not know where my money’s coming from?” From Above Entertainment owner Wes Nakano said, shouting at the mayor.

“I haven’t worked since March! I don’t want to ask for help! I went on food stamps for a while, but I didn’t want to because I didn’t think I needed it. I need it for people that need it. We can work!”

The mayor says weddings were on his original list of modifications for Tier 3, but the state Health Department did not approve the request.

The industry wants city and state leaders to acknowledge professional weddings under the same tier category as live structured events ―not social gatherings.

They say they can safely stage a wedding of up to 25 people. The current limit is 10 people.

After meeting the demonstrators, Blangiardi said he would go back to the state to ask for a change.

“I came down here to hear, listen and also try to tell you my position,” he said. “I’m not giving up. I appreciate and welcome the fact that everyone is here today, OK? I hear you.”

Nakano replied: “I thank you for what you’re doing mayor. I do.”

For now, both sides await a compromise.

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