Oahu bars, restaurants hope new guidelines on alcohol curfew, large events boost revenue

As part of loosening restrictions on Oahu restaurants and bars can now serve alcohol until midnight, which is part of an approach the city is calling "cautious"
Published: Oct. 9, 2021 at 5:18 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 11, 2021 at 10:52 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Oahu restaurants and bars can now serve alcohol until midnight.

The new guidelines are part of an approach the city is calling “cautious” in a step to restore some normalcy. But restaurateurs say more will be needed to help them stay afloat.

As summer ended and Safe Access Oahu went into effect, sales dipped between 30% to 50% for restaurants and bars, said Hawaii Restaurant Association incoming Chair Ryan Tanaka.

But Tanaka adds that the new guidelines on alcohol sales and large events will help bring up revenue.

“Alcohol until midnight will add between 5% to 20% back to restaurants and bars,” said Tanaka. “Allowing safely held events will bring back the higher spending visitor and more of them.”

It’s been a tough month for restaurants and bars.

“Last week was nearly 50% down,” said Hide Sakurai, co-owner of Sky Waikiki Raw and Bar.

“Probably 30% down,” added General Manager Monica Overton of Taps & Apps.

However, it’s not only their revenue that’s been affected, but their staffing as well.

“Everybody’s fighting for shifts,” said owner of Moani’s Island Bistro and Bar, Micah Keolanui. “There’s not enough business in operation to staff up.”

And while Sakurai is pleased that the alcohol curfew has been extended to midnight, others feel restaurants and bars should be allowed to serve alcohol until 2 a.m.

“We’ve followed all of the protocols and guidelines, we’re just kind of confused as to why we’re still kind of not allowed to be open,” said Overton.

“I think we all wanted to move a little quicker than it is, but I get the whole moving with caution,” said Keolanui.

Hula’s Bar and Lei Stand in Waikiki has had a tough 19 months, according to the general manager. The new rule gives them some relief.

“That helps us a lot,” said Brian Navarrete, the general manager for Hula’s. “Prior to covid, we were open throughout the day and the night. And frankly, people they want things to do. And after 10 o’clock there’s not much to do once you have that cut-off.”

Hawaii News Now reached out to Mayor Rick Blangiardi who says they want to move as aggressively as possible moving forward.

He said Oahu has just finished one of the most deadliest months in the pandemic and health experts actually wanted to shut down bars during the surge.

But as businesses struggle to survive, Tanaka said they may qualify for a federal credit for employee retention.

“But unfortunately, there’s still piled up back rent, a labor shortage, price inflation,” Tanaka explained. “The summer surge was short lived, and the delta variant could slow things down for the foreseeable future so this could be a huge life raft for qualifying businesses.”

“Any grants, any support by the government is highly appreciated,” said Sakurai.

“We could use as much help as we can get,” said Keolanui.

The Hawaii Restaurant Association is hosting a webinar on the Employee Retention Tax Credit Thursday at 1:30 p.m.

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