Bar owners, musicians and supporters of Reopen Hawaii expressed their frustration with the state’s COVID-19 restrictions Friday at the state Capitol, demanding an immediate reopening of their “nonessential” businesses.
Over 100 people demonstrated by waving American flags and holding signs with messages that included, “We are educated adults and can make educated decisions. Please allow us to reopen.”
Some demonstrators wore red “Make America Great Again” hats and one person was dressed in a military uniform.
Bill Comerford, owner of O’Toole’s Irish Pub, Anna O’Brien’s, Kelley O’Neil’s and the Irish Rose Saloon, said his businesses have been closed for 70 days.
“We are closed and they’re not telling us when we can reopen,” he said. “It’s a huge issue for us.”
Comerford said that by June 30 he and other bar owners will have to pay their liquor licenses.
“For me that’s going to be about $8,500,” he said. “I’ve had zero income. I’ve had to use my loan.”
He said he received a $580,000 loan through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, which allows loans to be forgiven if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest or utilities.
Some of Oahu’s “medium-risk” businesses, which include tattoo shops, barbers and hair salons, reopened Friday. Restaurants are being allowed to reopen for dine-in service starting June 5, but officials have not said when bars and nightclubs might be able to resume business.
Shawne Garliepp, president of Creekside Lounge in Kailua, said she’s been getting calls from customers every day asking when the establishment will reopen.
“It’s a small bar,” she said. “We know how to social distance. It’s spotless.”
Garliepp said her business was impacted drastically to where she is living off her savings.
“I’m 61 years old and I wanted to retire,” she said. “Now it’s going to push it up.”
Reopen Hawaii organizer Brooke McGowan said she sympathizes with the small business owners.
“They are very frustrated,” she said. “The problem with the bar situation is the 25% capacity doesn’t fit their business model. To open up a bar, you spend a lot of money to get the beer up to date and to get everything up to date. It costs a lot of money to get it going, and if you can’t bring a big group then they’re losing money.”