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With capacity rules lifted, Oahu restaurants celebrate the return of full dining rooms

Counties eased a long list of COVID restrictions Wednesday as the governor’s new emergency proclamation went into effect.
Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 7:18 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 1, 2021 at 4:49 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Counties eased a long list of COVID restrictions Wednesday as the governor’s new emergency proclamation went into effect.

One big change on Oahu: Large events and social gatherings are allowed to operate at 100% capacity. And restaurants, bars and gyms also no longer have to implement 6-foot social distancing requirements.

Businesses said easing the capacity restrictions will help recoup revenue lost during the pandemic. It has been nearly 19 months since they have been able to operate at full capacity.

Mark Taylor, the general manager for Highway Inn in Kakaako, said he was happy he could seat everyone for the lunch rush on Wednesday.

“We’re very excited,” he said. “It was an appropriate time. I wish it would have been sooner, but it’s best to err on the side of caution.”

Sheryl Matsuoka, executive director of the Hawaii Restaurant Association, said full capacity at restaurants couldn’t have come at a better time.

“We really, really need it,” she said.

Businesses also no longer have to keep contact information for customers.

But the challenge ahead? Hiring enough people to keep up with a full dining room.

“We’ve just hired about five to six people and we continue to hire,” Taylor said. “We’re going to need more people.”

“It’s the prep cooks, the fry cooks in the back, that we’re having a really hard time filling those positions,” Matsuoka added.

And there are folks still looking for work.

A few of them showed up at the unemployment office Wednesday for the first day of in-person servicing.

“If you have an issue with any of your unemployment or any divisions at the Department of Labor addresses, they can come in and we will service them Wednesday through Friday of every week,” said Anne Perreira-Eustaquio, the director for the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

Those who require in-person help will need to bring their proof of vaccination or a recent negative test.

The office’s closure and long response times led to frustration over the course of the pandemic, but on Wednesday things went smoothly.

Maui County said it is also allowing restaurants and bars to return to full capacity without physical distancing.

Maui Mayor Mike Victorino also lifted all outdoor restrictions. The county added indoor commercial events planned for more than 75 guests will still require an exemption and are encouraged to submit plans early.

On Hawaii Island, gatherings are now capped at 25 indoors and 100 outdoors.

Kauai is also increasing its gathering limits ― to 40 people indoors and 100 outdoors.

These rule changes come as the governor said he will no longer require county mayors to obtain state approval before enacting emergency rules. County mayors will now be responsible for their own regulations respective to their counties.

While some restrictions will ease under the new emergency proclamation, the state’s indoor mask mandate and Safe Travels program for mainland and international travelers will remain in effect.

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