Some Maui restaurants struggle to find employees amid vaccine-or-test mandate

Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 5:59 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 17, 2021 at 6:20 PM HST
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WAIKAPU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some restaurants on Maui are struggling to find workers after the county implemented a new vaccine mandate this week.

The rules require that restaurant workers be vaccinated or provide weekly negative COVID tests.

“Some of my employees are seeking employment elsewhere where they don’t have to worry about getting vaccinated to come to work. So, it’s a big challenge and we’re doing our very best to fill in those holes,” said Cafe O’Lei Restaurants General Manager Darren Byler.

Cafe O’Lei Restaurants is a family-owned business. They have five restaurants on the Valley Isle and have been around for 25 years, employing about 300 workers.

Byler says some of his employees recently got vaccinated, but it will be at least two weeks until they are considered “fully vaccinated.”

In the meantime, those employees are getting COVID tests — but even that has been a challenge.

“On our first day, we were short seven people for service,” Byler said.

“Some of our employees couldn’t find tests. They couldn’t get in to get a test because all of the reservations had been taken up already.”

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Maui County’s vaccine-or-test mandate also requires patrons to show proof of vaccination in order to dine indoors. The unvaccinated can sit outside or order takeout.

The new rules went into effect on Wednesday and will last for at least 30 days.

“We’re asking everyone to please be kind and be patient with us as our restaurants may be short-handed,” said Sheryl Matsuoka, Hawaii Restaurant Association executive director.

“We’re asking the community to please support your favorite restaurants.”

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