Oahu bars and restaurants will not be allowed to serve liquor after midnight effective immediately, city officials said this afternoon.
Gov. David Ige gave oral approval to Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s request to amend his COVID-19 emergency order this afternoon.
Caldwell, earlier in the day, said he asked that liquor-serving establishments be required to stop the sale, service, or consumption of alcohol at midnight due to increasing complaints about violations to social distancing requirements tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. They will be allowed to stay open beyond midnight so long as liquor is not available.
The order also allows city liquor inspectors and police officers to go as far as shutting down an establishment for 24 hours if a proprietor ignores warnings and citations. Operators found in noncompliance with the requirements of the order may also be subject to penalties that could include fines, suspension, and/or revocation of the liquor license, city officials said.
“We’re getting more and more complaints,” Caldwell told reporters at a press conference. “Our liquor commission has been going out and inspecting and seeing, in certain situations, hundreds of people at bars practicing no physical distancing, wearing no face coverings and dancing close together.”
Under standard city liquor laws, those with bar licenses may serve alcohol until 2 a.m. while those with cabaret licenses may serve until 4 a.m.
“We believe that people, as they hang around a bar for a long period of time and drink alcohol, they get more lax in their actions and therefore we have examples that we don’t want to see,” Caldwell said.
If there continues to be many complaints, Caldwell said, he may consider asking Ige to allow counties to mandate that establishments stop serving liquor at 10 p.m. “Don’t want to go there, but we’ll be watching to see what happens in certain bars.”
In response to questions, Honolulu Liquor Commission spokeswoman Melissa Pampulov said the panel “supports the effort of the mayor to make it safe for all of us.”
Pampulov confirmed that the commission has received complains about establishments that have violated social distancing orders and that citations have been issued. But she declined to provide specifics. “We are unable to comment on any adjudications that have not come before the commission.”
Caldwell said “we’re going to continue to look at ways to fight this virus to make sure that we do everything possible so we don’t have to shut down big sectors of our business community.”