Restaurants plead with state to ease restrictions as holiday season approaches

Many of Hawaii’s restaurants hard-hit by the pandemic are pleading for changes so they can make up lost business during the holiday season.
Published: Nov. 18, 2021 at 7:34 AM HST|Updated: Nov. 18, 2021 at 1:51 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With the holiday season approaching, many Hawaii restaurants hit hard by the pandemic are pleading for COVID rule changes in order to make up for lost business.

Namely, they’re asking for capacity restrictions to be lifted — or at least eased — for eateries.

“We are 19 months into the pandemic and restaurants face sustained challenges from lower foot traffic, inflation and the ongoing labor shortage,” said Sheryl Matsuoka, executive director for the Hawaii Restaurant Association.

“Everyone’s gearing up for holiday sales while also bracing for any new pandemic issues.”

Specifically, HRA is asking for the following changes:

  • 75% capacity in dining rooms as an interim to 100% capacity.
  • Dining rooms and outside seating open to vaccinated and unvaccinated guests

HRA is also requesting a plan for contact tracing to eventually go away.

“The current situation with contact tracing is also a large burden on many of our members. It’s labor intensive and at some point we will need to phase this out,” said Matsuoka.

In early November, the city eased rules for outdoor dining and said alcohol could be served through 4 through 2 a.m. or 4 a.m., depending on an establishment’s license. Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi also said he’s asked Gov. David Ige that restaurants and bars be allowed to operate at full capacity.

While Oahu restaurants wait on more restrictions to ease, HRA is getting the word out about the Hawaii Restaurant Card in an effort to boost sales during the holidays.

“The goal of the Hawaii Restaurant Card Business Holiday Card program is to distribute 50,000 cards to residents across the state, which would equate to $2.5 million in direct support to local food establishments from the Hawaii business community,” said Matsuoka.

Restaurants that would like to participate have to submit an order form before Dec. 10.

Orders received by Nov. 26 will be delivered by Dec. 10 while orders received after that date will be delivered by the end of the year. Cards will be mailed in bulk to each business, and they will be responsible for distributing purchased cards.

Those interested can purchase cards in denominations of $25, $50 and $100.

Cards will be valid from the date of activation through June 30. Any unused funds after that date will be returned to American Savings Bank and donated to local food industry charities.

For more information on the Hawaii Restaurant Card, click here.

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