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End of city’s vaccine-or-test mandate for eateries draws both applause and concern

After nearly six months, Safe Access Oahu has come to an end.
Published: Mar. 6, 2022 at 6:05 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 7, 2022 at 11:27 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After nearly six months, Safe Access Oahu has come to an end.

This means restaurants, bars, gyms, theaters, and arcades no longer are required to ask for a COVID vaccination card or a negative test taken within 48 hours.

Ave Kwok is the managing partner for the cafe at Dada and vice chairman for the Hawaii Restaurant Association. He said he was relieved to find out the program would go away.

“I was excited,” Kwok said. “Our whole war has been trying to talk to officials. Overall, they’ve been supportive.”

Kwok said he didn’t see too many changes with people coming in on Sunday, but hopes that the end of Safe Access will have more folks in soon.

Michael Skedeleski, director of operations for Eggs ‘n Things, said he was also happy to hear about the shift, and that locations in heavy tourist areas have already seen a change.

“In Waikiki, some are very happy they can actually dine in,” he said.

“For staff, they’re relieved they no longer have to have confrontations with people. They don’t have to re-educate people anymore and that was hard.”

After nearly six months, Safe Access Oahu has come to an end.

Dante Kea, manager of Duke’s Waikiki, said enforcing the policy was an adjustment.

“It wasn’t really as time consuming as it was kind of frustrating for certain guests that didn’t have all the documents ready to go, or maybe the wrong documents, or we weren’t really briefed on international documents,” said Kea. “But we got through it.”

The manager said ending the program frees up tension at the front desk.

But with spring break on their doorstep, they’re anticipating a surge of visitors and plan to control the crowds with limiting access to their restaurant.

“We’re going to keep it with one entrance and the same as the exit for now,” Kea said. “Just so that we can control the amount of volume coming in and out of our doors in its usual way in the bar, pool area.”

While many said getting into businesses will be easier, others appreciated the program as it gave them peace of mind knowing those around them are either vaccinated or tested negative.

“It’s been a little bit inconvenient each time, but it makes sense,” said Stu Wittner, who was visiting from New Jersey.

“And certainly, it’ll make it a little bit easier if you don’t have to spend that time, you know, showing your vaccination cards, but I think Hawaii has done a fabulous job in trying to be compliant.”

“I’m an older person so, you know, I’m more susceptible to things,” said Ed Martinez, who was visiting from San Diego. “So, knowing that I go someplace, and it’d be perfectly safe, I was happy about that.”

Chivon Garcia, executive assistant at the Hawaii Restaurant Association, said businesses still have hurdles.

“Staffing is still a huge challenge and we have supply chain issues,” Garcia said. “Businesses can’t find what they need or everything is back-ordered. If we start to open up and the supply chain isn’t there, that will be a huge issue.”

Private businesses are still free to implement their own COVID-guidelines. At the Hawaii Theatre, Avery Fukeda, director for development of special events, said they plan to keep the rules in place.

Fukeda said they’re on track to hosting quite a bit of shows this year and owes it to Safe Access Oahu.

“So, you know, it’s having the vaccination cards, or at least the negative COVID test, allows them ease of mind,” said Fukeda. “And, you know, our patrons are grateful for that.”

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