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Restrictions continue for many Hawaii businesses

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Restrictions continue for many Hawaii businesses

Dong Kim, a manager at McCully Buffet, was eagerly waiting for the green light to welcome a restaurant full of customers.

But that, never came.

"We were actually kind of like hoping that we were included with the lessened restrictions. So for sure we are a little bit disappointed that restaurants were excluded from that," Kim said. "I know a lot of us are still struggling. It's not just the restaurant lives that matter. Also the guys who work there."

Geoffrey Seideman, owner of Honolulu Beerworks in Kakaako, said having a beer distribution component is the only way his business survived the worst of the pandemic.

But it's not getting any easier.

"But our main profit center is the brew pub itself and the bar and the restaurant. So one being closed for five and a half months and then the restrictions on how many people are here and then the lack of actual visitors coming to Hawaii all impacted what we can do," he said. "I mean, it's definitely frustrating."

He said business was down by as much as 50 to 60 percent last year.

"At this point, we're just trying to survive," Seideman said.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi's office said he'd like to lift those restrictions too, but it's not for him to say. That decision's in the hands of the governor.

A spokeswoman for Gov. David Ige said he's still working with the mayors to find a way to reduce restrictions while keeping the community safe.

Ige believes there are higher risks in those establishments and has no timetable for when he might allow more capacity.

Local musician Eric Ho depends on bar and restaurant gigs. 

Eating today at McCully Buffet, he said he's looking forward to the day Hawaii can have a meaningful recovery.

"We got to open up restaurants and bars and stuff because it's just too difficult to survive," Ho said. "The rent no change so it's kind of not fair. If a lot of the restrictions do not get lifted, we'll never fully recover from this pandemic. People got to get back to work. We have bills to pay, we have lives to live."

Produced in partnership with the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

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