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In a ‘lucky problem,’ long lines and big crowds now a common sight in Waikiki

Updated: Mar. 19, 2021 at 10:37 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - With social distancing restrictions in restaurants, there’s just not enough space to accommodate everyone.

But even with social distancing, there’s no denying that the crowds are back.

Once the sun sets, business starts to pick up for restaurants at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center in Waikiki. Wait times range from 30 minutes to well over an hour.

“We’re booked up for dinner reservations almost every single night and then weekends pretty much until closing we’re packed,” said Logan Mosat, senior shift lead of Island Vintage Wine Bar.

“There’s a lot of overcrowding in the front and we do get a lot of calls from the mall regarding customers not wearing a mask with a crowd of 50 people outside,” added Kazuma Kitajima, manager of Doraku.

With Hawaii slowly lifting restrictions, Kitajima feels residents have become too complacent with COVID rules.

“Now that we’re in Tier 3 I think a lot of people are still kind of under the impression that we’re back to normal they can go out they can do whatever they want but I think slowly people are starting to realize that’s not the case,” said Kitajima.

Hawaii health officials are also worried people are getting complacent just as the state welcomes a surge of visitors. The Tourism Authority reports nearly 20,000 arrivals Thursday.

Honolulu got about half of them.

“Also with the vaccine now, I think a lot of people that do have it feel like they don’t have to wear masks,” said Savanah Mechella of Kaimuki.

“For other people you should still wear masks because you can still spread it.”

Customers dining out have mixed feelings.

“The pre-test before coming to Hawaii I think helps out quite a bit so we feel pretty safe,” said Josh Vermeluen who is visiting from Seattle.

A shut down is the last thing restaurants want to face.

“We can’t wait for the day that everything is safe enough to have all of our tables back inside, have all of our chairs back just so that we don’t have to keep so many people waiting at the door or have so many people on wait list,” said Motas.

“Because sometimes wait list will be as long as an hour wait and that’s a crazy long time to wait for food.”

The state Department of Health said spring break and high visitor numbers are contributing to the crowds, but adds that it’s not just visitors but returning residents, also.

They say that if you’re going to be out, the best defense is still to wear your mask.

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