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Most businesses comply with Oahu’s new COVID rules, but enforcing them could prove tricky

Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 4:46 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 13, 2021 at 5:13 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Most businesses on Oahu are complying with the city’s Safe Access Oahu program for restaurants, bars, gyms and indoor attractions.

But some are openly defying the rules, which require them to ensure customers are either fully vaccinated or have proof of a negative COVID result taken with the last 48 hours.

Donald Moriarty, owner of the Doner Shack, is a critic of the state and city COVID mandates.

He said he won’t comply with the rules, and expects to be fined or even shut down.

“You follow the mandates and you lose your business eventually based on your less than 50% customer turnout,” he said, referring to ongoing capacity restrictions.

Several of his customers said they support his views.

“I don’t think we should be pushing that on people. I think it’s up to the person,” Monica Lillywhite, of Kahala, said of the vaccine-or-test rules.

But according to the Hawaii Restaurant Association and the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, a majority of the restaurants and businesses on Oahu plan to comply with the new requirements.

Many of these businesses believe the mandates are better than having another shutdown.

“The worst thing I can think of outside a public health crisis with somebody in my building is for us to close again,” said Dylan Ching, who is vice president of operations for TS Restaurants, which owns Dukes and other bars and grills. “That was really really difficult.”

Some restaurants that don’t want to enforce the rules have pivoted to take-out only.

“If they expect me to come out of the back of my restaurant and ask them for their papers, that’s too Gestapo to me,” said James Warner, who owns Soffritto, which is mostly takeout.

Unlike the restaurant mask requirement, which was enforced by the state Health Department, the vaccine-or-test mandates will be policed by the city and that could make enforcement tricky.

Bars and restaurants that serve alcohol will be policed by the Honolulu Liquor Commission, which has a complete administrative hearings process for handling such complaints.

But restaurants that don’t sell liquor ― along with gyms, bowling alleys and entertainment venues also subject to the rules ― will face enforcement if people complain to the Honolulu Police Department.

The HPD said it will respond depending on availability of officers.

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