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Oahu’s new ‘vaccine pass’ program stirs mixed feelings among businesses

Published: Aug. 30, 2021 at 10:32 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 31, 2021 at 11:24 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city’s Safe Oahu Access Program ― which will require customers to show vaccine cards or a negative COVID test at restaurants, bars, gyms and other businesses ― come as Oahu deals with more than 7,400 active COVID cases.

But there are mixed feelings among businesses about the new rules.

Some business owners think this will boost vaccinations and eventually lead to the end of restrictions while others say this will severely cut their customer base.

“People that are not vaccinated are going to cancel their membership,” said David Leong, owner of Powerhouse Gym in Aiea. “Guaranteed.”

Leong said he understands the need for the Safe Access Oahu Program, but he said more than a dozen members have already cancelled their memberships.

“Probably 30 to 40% of the members are not vaccinated because they they’re hit that demographics of 20- to 45-year-old who think that they’re young and strong and healthy,” said Leong.

But Ryan Tanaka, co-owner of Giovanni Pastrami, is pleased with the mayor’s initiative.

“It makes the enforcement very easy because then they can just show their phone,” said Tanaka.

Tanaka is also expecting an increase in take-out orders for unvaccinated customers who don’t have a negative COVID test.

“We’re going to show them our menu and encourage them to take out and there’s going to be a lot of people who are confused, you know where I can go into?” said Tanaka.

“We need a community to support all of our local neighborhood restaurants, especially if you’re in a zip code, where the vaccination rate is below 50%,” added Tanaka.

Leong said he is still struggling to find employees to cover operations and says requiring employees to be vaccinated just adds to the stress.

He wishes the mayor gave businesses more time to prepare for the new requirements.

“And now I’m going to be even more short handed because I have a handful of employees that are not vaccinated,” said Leong.

Republican state Rep. Val Okimoto encourages people to get vaccinated but opposes the vaccine pass program.

“Common sense tells me that if you implement a policy that segregates the vaccinated with the unvaccinated, we’re inadvertently incentivizing the unvaccinated community to gather and spread COVID within their own communities.”

And others are still divided over the vaccines themselves.

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