Oahu restaurants and bars will be able to offer only takeout, drive-thru or delivery food services — or otherwise need to shut their doors — under a new and sweeping emergency proclamation issued Wednesday by Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
The drastic order, which is to begin 8:30 a.m. Friday and last for 15 calendar days, is designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus by limiting gatherings of 10 or more people as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, city officials said.
A Honolulu Police Department official said that, “in rare cases,” violators of the restaurant-and-bar restriction could be arrested and then, if found guilty, be subject to fines of up to $2,000 and a maximum of one year in jail.
Additionally, Caldwell ordered:
>> All city facilities including parks, golf courses, tennis courts, pools, the Honolulu Zoo and the Honolulu botanical gardens, to be closed until April 30. Only two days ago, Caldwell had ordered all city-related indoor facilities closed, along with Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve and the Neal S. Blaisdell Center.
>> Starting today, city employees deemed essential but able to work from home to do so, and that those deemed nonessential but able to work from home to do so, and that those deemed nonessential and unable to work remotely to not work but continue to be paid. The city has roughly 10,000 employees including about 2,000 police officers, 1,000 firefighters, and 500 paramedics and emergency medical technicians who will all need to continue reporting for work along with those employees responsible for other essential city services including refuse collection, water and wastewater operations.
Other core city services — including those provided at satellite city halls and by the Department of Planning and Permitting — will continue to operate. But driver licensing and DPP applications will be processed by appointment only.
Restaurant and bar restrictions
The restrictions are expected to affect the livelihoods of thousands of bar and restaurant employees across the island.
“This is a strong action, and it’s one I take with a lot of trepidation because I know it’s going to have huge impact not just on the owners of these restaurants, but all the workers,” Caldwell said.
The city will reevaluate the situation after the 15 days, he said. “If we’re advised by our medical advisers that we don’t have to continue it, it would end at that point,” he said.
“If need be, we can investigate and crack down but I’m hoping that does not occur,” Caldwell said. “That would fall partly to the Honolulu Police Department — they’re super busy with all kinds of other issues and we don’t want to put this burden on their plate.”
Late Wednesday, HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu said in an email that upon receiving a report of a possible violation, “an officer will be sent to the establishment to meet with and inform the owner or manager of the rules and orders that have been put in place due to the current state of emergency.”
Yu added: “Anyone who refuses to comply could be warned, cited or, in rare cases, arrested. The penalty is up to a $2,000 fine and/or one year imprisonment.”
“We really think that our business owners are conscientious and that they will be responsible and comply on their own,” Police Chief Susan Ballard said.
Caldwell said he consulted with city Acting Corporation Counsel Paul Aoki before making the decision to sign the order. “He signed off on the order … We believe it will stand on strong legal ground,” he said.
The prohibition does not apply to stores, supermarkets, offices or other types of businesses, although state and federal health officials are strongly recommending that no more than 10 people gather in one place.
Rainy day fund
Earlier Wednesday, the City Council voted 7-0 to approve Bill 35, giving Caldwell and his successors the ability to tap a $126 million rainy day fund to battle the impacts of the new coronavirus.
The law now says what’s formally known as the fiscal stability fund can only be used when certain clearly defined economic or revenue conditions are triggered, or if the governor or president declares a state of emergency due to a natural disaster. There’s no language pertaining to pandemic virus outbreaks.
Amendments inserted by Council members Wednesday allow for the mayor to access the funds for pandemic outbreaks only during the period the governor declares under a state of emergency, require the administration to report to the Council how money from the fund was spent, and prohibit use of the fund for the rail project.
City Budget Director Nelson Koyanagi insisted that city agencies are to use unspent funds, or reassign their funds, to make purchases of emergency gear or pay any other pandemic-related costs. “I don’t foresee us needing to tap the funds right now,” Koyanagi said.
Council still will meet
The nine-member Council will continue to meet and on Wednesday voted 7-0 to pass Resolution 20-71, allowing members to participate from remote locations and be counted as “present” at meetings. That would allow them to participate in discussions and vote on bills from outside Council chambers.
Anderson said the Council is not yet set up to be able to conduct business in such a manner, but is working on having the capability to do so soon.
The Council Public Safety and Welfare is scheduled to hold an informational briefing at 10 a.m. today with various agencies to discuss the city’s response to COVID-19.