Small Island Restaurants Cite Big Losses Due to New Mandates | News, Sports, Jobs

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Flatbread Company’s Glikeria Kuznetsov sprinkles a pizza with herbs before directing it to the wood-fired oven on Friday afternoon. – The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

PAIA – Citing significant losses from vaccination mandates quickly adopted by Maui County, some locally owned and operated restaurants in Maui are lobbying county and state leaders for relief funds to avoid bigger reductions and even closures.

Some restaurants – particularly those in eastern and central Maui that rely on residents rather than tourists – are seeing reductions of 25% to over 50% in sales since terms of office began.

Restaurant owners recognize that the season is generally slower, but with capacity limits for restaurants statewide reduced to 50 percent, some aren’t sure how they can keep going.

“It was a sad lunch” Heide Hancock, interim general manager of Flatbread Co., told Paia on Friday afternoon. “These mandates kind of freak out the staff. They wonder if they are going to have their job. Especially in front of the house if you only have to go to take out. It’s really hard to see them so anxious. We have a great team here. It really is like a family.

Kaili Scheer, a Maui native and owner of Marlow, reported a sales drop of more than 50% on Wednesday and a 25% drop on Thursday at her restaurant Pukalani. If things don’t improve this weekend, the new restaurant will have to revise its operations to get through the remainder of the term.

It’s a slow afternoon at Flatbread Company in Paia on Friday. Businesses that depend on residents have experienced a downturn in operations as customers must now be fully vaccinated to dine indoors. – The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“Wednesday was terrifying to be honest”, she said.

After seeing at least a 50% drop in sales on Wednesday and Thursday, Wailuku’s chef-owner Umi Sushi, Jayse Sato, who noted that he and his five employees were vaccinated, sent an appeal for patronage via the networks. social Friday. It’s not easy to switch to takeout for some restaurants, he said, as many locals enjoy the dining experience.

“Our thought after two days of these mandates is that it is really difficult for us to operate under these conditions”, he said. “We need the two sides to come together or small businesses like us are never going to get away with it.”

Colleen’s at the Haiku Cannery, which employs 45 people and has been in business for 25 years, has seen sales drop more than 50 percent since deployment. Other states that are studying how the Hawaii Passport Vaccination Program works should be “Extremely suspicious” owner Colleen Nicholas said Friday.

“The business climate has gone from serious to just that – terrible” she said. “I often speak with other small business owners and not all of us know how long we can withstand the severe restrictions on our operations.”

Flatbread Company baker Kacey U’u throws pizza dough on Friday afternoon. – The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Kula Bistro and Flatbread have also reported traffic reductions since deployment. Additionally, they face staff shortages and scheduling issues as employees try to navigate the new rules. Flatbread had to shut down its dinner shift on Wednesday and Kula Bistro let the workers leave early Thursday.

Bars, restaurants and gyms have been mandated from Wednesday to check the immunization status of customers seeking operations indoors, and staff are required to prove vaccination or submit a negative COVID-19 test weekly. Called “Safer on the outside” the rules will be reassessed after 30 days.

The warrants follow those of Oahu ” Secured access “ program, which were implemented on Monday. Oahu businesses had weeks after receiving official rules to implement them. Maui County had less than a week to prepare: the official rules were posted online on September 9, and they began on September 15.

“We are here to support all efforts to reduce the number of cases on our island”, Scheer said. “However, the mandates appeared to be deployed in a rushed effort, without the appropriate support for businesses, such as dedicated test sites for employees and campaigns to educate the public on the specifics of the mandate.”

In addition to the threat of fines and shutdowns for violating emergency rules, restaurants face unique risks of non-compliance due to onerous regulations imposed by the state’s health ministry and oversight department. county spirits.

“It would be nice if everyone could be like, ‘We’re not going to do this,’ but it’s just too difficult.” Lindsay Kalaway, takeaway cashier at Kula Bistro, said Thursday. “People are just trying to make money at this point. No one can afford not to work. Especially since they do not offer unemployment to anyone because of it.

At the start of the pandemic, restaurateurs had PPP loans that could help offset economic downturns due to COVID-19 restrictions, Nicholas said.

“Now we don’t have any of those safety nets or insurance” she said.

Scheer said some restaurants are looking to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

“We should all call our senators to ask for this”, she said.

The program, designed to provide emergency assistance to restaurants, bars and other eligible businesses affected by COVID-19, quickly dried up after launching earlier this year.

Nicholas added that the COVID-19 situation in Maui will not be resolved by blaming it on restaurants and other small businesses. His restaurant is constantly renovating its dining rooms and modifying its operations, but the rules keep changing.

Sato said the sector was being unfairly targeted.

“We have had the s – – – end of the stick throughout this pandemic”, said Sato. “If you’re going to apply this mandate for restaurants, bars and gyms, apply it to everyone. “

“We as small businesses cannot survive. “

The US Small Business Administration reports that 99.3 percent of businesses in Hawaii are small businesses, defined as those with 500 or fewer employees. Almost 98 percent of the state’s small businesses have fewer than 20 employees; about 82 percent have no employees.

Asked by The Maui News if the administration has forecasted the loss of mandate income and what resources are available for restaurants, county general manager Sandy Baz, the county economic development office said.

“Maui County Economic Development Office has resources available,” Baz said at the county press conference on Friday afternoon. “We also have resources on our Maui Nui Highlights information page; you can call the Maui County Economic Development Office and they can help you directly with different federal resources and they can put you in touch with different areas for help if you need it if you are affected by COVID in general or this specific rule. “

Editor-in-chief Matthew Thayer contributed to this report.

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be contacted at [email protected]

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