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As holidays near, some Hawaiʻi restaurants want an end to coronavirus rules

restaurant dining pandemic coronavirus AP
Keith Srakocic/AP
In this Jan. 17, 2021, file photo, a passerby wearing a protective mask is reflected in the window of an empty restaurant.

HONOLULU — With the holidays approaching, restaurants in Hawaiʻi want the state to ease coronavirus restrictions that limit their ability to fill their dining rooms.

Despite capacity rules being eased for businesses that comply with vaccination checks, the state is still requiring social distancing rules to be enforced at restaurants — meaning tables must be situated six feet apart.

Because of the small size of many establishments, they cannot seat to full capacity.

“We are 19 months into the pandemic and restaurants face sustained challenges from lower foot traffic, inflation and the ongoing labor shortage. Everyone’s gearing up for holiday sales while also bracing for any new pandemic issues,” said Sheryl Matsuoka, executive director for the Hawaiʻi Restaurant Association.

Restaurants are also required to collect names and other information from patrons in case there is an outbreak at their establishment.

“The current situation with contact tracing is also a large burden on many of our members. It’s labor intensive and at some point, we will need to phase this out,” Matsuoka said.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said he asked Gov. David Ige to consider changing the rules, but Ige has said that because restaurants are considered high risk businesses the restrictions will remain in place.

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