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Getting rid of distancing rules will give eateries much needed relief, restaurants say

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 7:17 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 23, 2021 at 7:18 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Under the current rules, restaurants were required to seat customers six feet apart, even if capacity limits were lifted.

But that’s about to change come Dec. 1, after Gov. Ige announce the rules would be lifted, and no distancing requirements would be in place.

That decision will remove a huge financial burden and stress on eateries, restaurant industry leaders say.

“Today’s announcement is going to allow restaurants who have been standing on their last leg to finally have a chance to get out the doldrums of COVID,” said Ryan Tanaka, incoming chair of the Hawaii Restaurant Association.

According to the Hawaii Restaurant Association, about 100 restaurants have gone out of business during the pandemic, resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs. Many others have closed temporarily, unable to make a profit with capacity restricted.

“The truth of the matter is we have a lot of other restaurants that need to open up, get back, hire people, have people go have dinner there,” said Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi.

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Nate Pulawa is a manager at Giovanni Pastrami in Waikiki. He says lifting the six-foot social distancing requirement will make a big difference in the number of customers they can serve.

“It’s huge. We’re probably going to get 15 more tables and bar tops. Instead of 12, it will fit 20,” he said.

Blangiardi said Tuesday’s announcement shows that the Safe Access Oahu program is working. It requires proof of vaccination or a negative test within 48 hours whenever entering a restaurant, gym or entertainment venue.

That program will remain in place for the time being along with the indoor mask mandate.

“I’m very pleased and very proud ... we have not had any clusters in restaurants,” he said.

Kauai’s and Maui’s mayors said they also plans to roll back the social distancing restrictions on restaurants.

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