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Amid tourism boom, restaurants at 50% capacity struggle to meet demand

Published: Jun. 8, 2021 at 6:26 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 9, 2021 at 1:09 PM HST
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LAHAINA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Over the last week, more than 35,000 people have flown into the state daily ― figures that are near or at pre-pandemic levels.

The tourism boom is good for businesses that rely on visitor dollars, but it’s also presenting challenges ― especially for industries that must still follow COVID restrictions.

Like restaurants, which are still required to keep capacity at 50%.

Many say they simply can’t keep up with demand.

“Almost from open to close right now, we’re on at least somewhat of a wait,” said Cool Cat Cafe General Manager Paul Kemp.

The average wait time for Kemp’s restaurant is an hour because they do not take reservations. It is first-come, first-serve.

Other places are booked out for months.

“Things are booked out until July 31st which is insane to me because this is June 8th,” said California visitor Samantha Ornelas.

Although restaurants are struggling to keep up, the governor said when 60% of the state is fully vaccinated, restaurants can move up to 75% capacity.

Kemp says they likely will not be able to pack in more people because of social distancing mandates.

“Until we can kind of bring that down a little, 75% isn’t that much difference for many people. So, if we can get 6 feet to 3 feet, that’s when everything will really come together for the restaurants and put everything really back to the old norm,” Kemp said.

Down Front Street at Sale Pepe, owners Michele and Qiana Di Bari see the other side.

“We need to be safe. People think it’s over, especially people who are coming on vacation, they’re feeling like it’s over but it’s not,” said Michele, owner and chef.

They are booked until the end of the month but ramped up their take-out and delivery business and see the light at the end of the tunnel.

“We always remember that this is a temporary situation. It’s uncomfortable right now but things are going to be getting better and better as we go along we just have to hang in there,” said Qiana, owner and general manager.

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