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Recreating Oahu’s Bar Business to Operate During the Pandemic

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Most bars on Oahu spent the past year closed entirely, until just last month, because they were singled out for the most severe restrictions under former Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s emergency orders.

And they would still be closed today if Honolulu’s Tier system hadn’t been modified last month under Mayor Rick Blangiardi to treat them more like restaurants.

Some bars survived by adjusting revenue streams—which is what distinguished a bar from a restaurant.  If less than 30% of your revenue came from food sales, you were a bar.

Judy Foster Long, owner of Anyplace Cocktail Lounge, responded to the rules by buying two refrigerators to increase food storage.

She grew the menu, invested in take-out supplies, and offered take-out. Now back open, food sales make up about 40% of her revenue.

For craft cocktail bar, Bevy, where gourmet drinks were the main attraction, what helped it reopen in October was its sister business next door, Taco‘ako.

With that kitchen on tap, Bevy could generate enough food sales to reopen under the restaurant restrictions

But this simply isn’t the business model for many bars.

Bill Comerford, owner of four Irish pubs geared around young people, late nights and live music, has permanently closed two of his bars and said it’s unlikely he’ll be able to reopen the others.

After eight months without revenue, he simply doesn’t have the cash in hand to staff up and reopen.

A. Kam Napier is the editor-in-chief of Pacific Business News.
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