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Sidewalk dining is still very popular. But with no emergency order, it’s no longer allowed

Sidewalk dining was a big boost to eateries when the state banned crowds indoors, but until a new law is in place the city says that privilege is discontinue.
Published: Mar. 18, 2022 at 10:27 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Sidewalk dining has been a big boost to eateries during the pandemic.

But Robert Yamasaki, owner of Yakitori Hachibei, said the Honolulu Liquor Commission told him the practice was no longer allowed and gave him a warning on Thursday night.

Former Mayor Kirk Caldwell introduced the temporary sidewalk dining program in Summer 2020. Under the city’s emergency order, the program remained in place until the proclamation ended March 5.

According to a city spokesperson, the liquor commission notified their licensees of the changes via email after the order expired.

Several eateries, though, say they weren’t told.

“If we were given advance notice then maybe we can phase it out but our reservation system is Open Table,” said Yamasaki. “Our outdoor dining is full every night.

“Most of the guests are choosing because it’s a safe option today.”

Chuck Bussler, managing partner of Fete, was also surprised by the change.

“I understand that the liquor commission agents are doing their job as told, but even their own office is in a disconnect,” he said. “The management side of the office was unaware until we talked to them.”

He added the situation is just frustrating.

“This has been so hard to get through not only financially but emotionally,” said Bussler. “And then yet another thing that was unnecessary. We should be better.”

Restaurants are hoping sidewalk dining will become permanent.

“It allowed us to keep a certain amount of revenue flowing but it also allowed people who were not comfortable with dining in to actually be dining outdoors,” Bussler said.

“And we still have that type of guest even though it looks like things are getting better.”

The city says no citations have been issued, but the liquor commission has started the process of notifying businesses that they are no longer in compliance with current city ordinances.

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