Many Hawaii restaurants don’t have space to social distance

November 4, 2021 GMT

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii’s governor is lifting capacity limits imposed during the pandemic on businesses like restaurants, bars and gyms, but owners must continue to enforce social distancing rules.

That means that for many establishments, capacity won’t increase much beyond the current 50% limit because they simply don’t have the space.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Thursday that the Hawaii Restaurant Association sent a letter to Hawaii Gov. David Ige asking him to reduce the 6-foot (2-meter) distance rule to 3 feet (1 meter) or less.

“With the high number of ongoing restrictions during the pandemic’s first 19 months, Hawaii restaurants have probably been held to the highest standard of any industry in the country,” the letter said.

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Ige’s order allows the establishments to operate at full indoor capacity as long as everyone is vaccinated or tested and groups of people are kept apart.

“It doesn’t really move the needle for many restaurants,” said Ryan Tanaka, incoming board chairman of the Hawaii Restaurant Association.

For example, restaurant Loco Moco Drive Inn on Oahu uses half its tables to store carry-out boxes. They must remain at 50% capacity despite the new rules that start next week, and workers say that means a lack of income they’ve endured since early last year will continue.