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Reaction among businesses is mixed over the state’s latest round of COVID rules

Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 9:32 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 11, 2021 at 9:51 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some industries have already learned to adapt to COVID restrictions. But for others, they’re back at square one following the rollback of capacity limits.

In a desperate attempt to curb the highly infectious delta variant, Gov. David Ige reinstated COVID restrictions on Tuesday on social establishments, churches, and professional events.

However, the reaction is mixed.

Some businesses find relief in the new rules while others feel they’re being punished.

“We can’t really operate as a restaurant, we don’t have tables,” said Robbie Baldwin, owner of Scarlet Honolulu.

Less than two months after reopening, Baldwin said the new restrictions will force him to close again.

He was hoping to be exempt from the new executive order because the nightclub asks all guests for proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test.

“What were really taken aback by is that they were not making any exceptions for vaccinated venues,” said Baldwin. “And we’d work so hard with the mayor to get open and be 100% vaccinated venue.

“And this just feels like we’ve been run over,” added Baldwin.

But at Buzz’s Steakhouse in Kailua not much is changing.

“Because of the 100% capacity, you have to still socially distance,” said Mani Schneider, general manager of Buzz’s Steakhouse in Kailua.

Under the new order, restaurants and bars must now go back to 50% capacity.

But after the recent COVID spike, Buzz’s Steakhouse had already removed all chairs from its bar and brought back temperature checks.

“That’s why we’re really trying to do everything that they say we need to do because we don’t want to close,” said Schneider. “We don’t want everybody to have to go on unemployment again.”

The Oahu Wedding Association is also fine with the new order since it requires professional events with more than 50 people to consult with county officials giving them a chance to work out compromises.

“This isn’t a big hoop for us to jump through, but it is one more layer that we have to figure out,” said Joseph Esser, president of the Oahu Wedding Association.

The rest of the order aims to shrink social gatherings and church crowds, but there’s no change to the Safe Travels program.

“I do feel like there should be some kind of limitations of how much tourists we can have, you know, at least some compromise to our rising cases,” said Justin Tabby of Honolulu.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily productive to be pointing fingers and blaming anyone,” said Peter Zhu of Honolulu. “You know, the only way to really get over this is if we have a team effort.”

HPD says officers will be responding to reports from the public, but there are no plans to create additional enforcement teams.

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