Oahu restaurants not using vaccination exemptions

HONOLULU — Oahu restaurants and bars have the option to do away with social distancing if customers provide proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test.

But many restaurant operators aren’t doing so because diners don’t want to show their vaccination cards or present test results, Hawaii New Now reported Monday.

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Honolulu allows eateries to participate in the program under Tier 5 of its COVID-19 pandemic reopening guidelines. Restaurants that did so encountered backlash.

“In the beginning, we were so excited,” said Sheryl Matsuoka, the executive director of the Hawaii Restaurant Association. “It gave restaurants an option.”

Matsuoka said she expected smaller restaurants to participate in the change.

“But as time went by, we found guests didn’t want to show their card or weren’t vaccinated,” she said. “Visitors were upset because guests came from states with less restrictions.”

Sarah Nguyen, owner of The Pizza Press in Pearl City, said she asked her employees about the program, and decided against it.

“I wanted to respect each person’s privacy. It would be hard to manage and I didn’t want to put my staff in a position where a situation would arise,” Nguyen said.

The owner of Giovanni Pastrami, which is in the heart of Waikiki, doesn’t consider the program a viable option.

“Mainly due to the labor shortage and the added compliance and training that would be required for that process, we didn’t want to put our employees in that position,” said Ryan Tanaka, the owner and president of Island Business Management. “We would be managing angry and confused customers who don’t agree with that process.”

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Don Murphy, owner of Murphy’s Bar and Grill in Chinatown, said he noticed nearby restaurants asked patrons for vaccination cards but received backlash.

“They got eaten alive on social media,” Murphy said. “I don’t want to put my staff through that.”

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