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Mixed reactions from businesses with easing COVID-19 restrictions

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Mixed reactions from businesses with easing COVID-19 restrictions

Eighteen months ago Bill Comerford had four operating bars and a management company earning $6.5 million a year in sales.

But then COVID hit and government restrictions took effect -- and he watched the businesses he built over more than two decades fade away.

"It's way too late, they destroyed all the businesses," he said. "We've lost everything -- lost our homes, lost our marriages, everything with this." 

Starting today, alcohol will be served in bars until midnight, while weddings can soon have up to 150 people. Shows and concerts will be allowed up to 500 people and live sports up to 1,000.

Comerford said he now only has one operating bar -- the Irish Rose Saloon -- but the business can no longer survive, nor can he afford to stay in Hawaii.

Meanwhile other struggling business owners are breathing a sigh of relief.

Julie Aragaki, owner of The Best Hawaii Wedding, said the move comes just in time.

"This allows our florists to go back to work, our photographers, our videographers," she said. "Being able to get this approved from the governor and the mayor it's a huge step for our industry." 

Aragaki added while some indoor operators will still have their hands tied, it's the first step in reviving the flailing wedding industry.

And now many businesses owners can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Businesses are hoping pent-up demand will slowly help them recover significant losses until the day comes when restrictions are completely lifted.

Produced in partnership with the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

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