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Gyms, theaters and bars among many businesses on Oahu allowed to reopen

  • JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Protesters gathered at the state Capitol on May 29 objecting to the continuing closure of bars and night life venues in Honolulu. The governor announced Thursday that such businesses may open June 19.

    JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Protesters gathered at the state Capitol on May 29 objecting to the continuing closure of bars and night life venues in Honolulu. The governor announced Thursday that such businesses may open June 19.

Gyms, movie theaters and bars are among the businesses on Oahu that will be allowed to reopen this month per a city order representing a major leap to reopening the city’s economy.

Gov. David Ige on Thursday approved the order proposed by Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell to reopen many businesses on June 19 by allowing up to 50 people for indoor events and 100 people for outdoor events. It would “account for the reopening of education and care facilities, indoor attractions, outdoor organized team sports, fitness facilities … and bars.”

Film and television will be able to reopen for production and on-location filming starting today, the order said.

“Indoor attractions” such as “bowling alleys, arcades, mini golf, movie theatres, museums, and other similar indoor entertainment facilities” also would be allowed to reopen with certain conditions and limitations such as following social distancing rules.

“Gyms, spas, yoga, barre, spin, dance studios, hula halau” and other similar facilities also will be able to open June 19, the order said.

The order follows a steady relaxing of restrictions on lower-risk businesses and services in the state such as salons, in-church services, dining in at restaurants and the 14-day interisland travel quarantine.

A timeline for returning to normalcy is welcome news that provides at least cautious optimism for some struggling businesses.

That’s the case for Bill Comerford, 67, owner of O’Toole’s Irish Pub, Anna O’Brien’s, Kelley O’Neil’s and the Irish Rose Saloon, whose businesses have been closed since St. Patrick’s Day on March 17.

“We still (have) the same problems of the coronavirus conditions. The need to follow those and maintain safety doesn’t mean we can go back to working at capacity, where we actually make ourselves profitable and functional, but it does give us a window to go forward, and that’s a huge positive,” he said. “So, can I be hopeful? Yes. Do I think everybody’s going to be successful from this point forward? We’re all going to struggle as well.”

Comerford said the order solves issues regarding liquor licenses, which he said expire this month. He previously said he wasn’t going to renew them, but with the reopening of bars, he is going to try.

But the news is a little too late for other business owners like Glen Tomlinson and his wife, Janet, who ran the World War II-themed Home of the Brave Brewseum.

Glen Tomlinson said the arrival of COVID-19 contributed to a “perfect storm” for the part-speakeasy, part-museum and part-brewery with 100,000 artifacts, relics and memorabilia donated by World War II veterans.

“We’re gone. We’re done. It did us in,” he said. “We tried to hold on as long as we could. We were having trouble even before this whole COVID thing, and we couldn’t hold on. We’re a small mom-and-pop, so we’re out of business.”

Tomlinson said he’s been moving things out from the museum located in Kakaako. The bar closed in January, but he was set to keep the Brewseum open by relocating to Waikiki, where there would be more foot traffic. But that was completely interrupted by COVID-19.

“I’m not telling you this to be … ‘woe is me.’ It was just really sad because a piece of American history, and, especially for local people, Hawaiian history just went down the toilet,” he said. “That’s kind of the sad side of it. We tried to save it for future generations.”

He said he possibly could reopen the museum in Colorado, where his son lives.

Continued social distancing, a slowly recovering economy and exhausted federal aid could still spell doom for small businesses in the coming months, Tomlinson said.

“I think you’re going to see a lot more closures in … a month to two months,” he said.

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