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COVID-19 claims 900 Honolulu businesses, survey finds

Nearly 900 businesses in Honolulu have shut down either temporarily or permanently since the beginning of March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 10% of the closures are permanent, according to the second-quarter Yelp Economic Average report, which looks at some of the latest trends around how COVID-19 is affecting the economy.

The report, which counts closures through July 10, said 95 restaurants and 91 retail businesses in Honolulu permanently closed between March 1 and July 10. Yelp said Honolulu experienced the highest rate of business closures relative to the number of businesses in the city.

“The pushback of the reopening of tourism in Hawaii (until Sept. 1) will continue to have an impact,” said Sherry Menor-McNamara, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii. “We did a survey with UHERO (the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization) at the end of April, and 40% of businesses said they cannot continue to operate until tourism reopens. So you can imagine the uncertainty and impact this will have” by pushing back the 14-day quarantine date.

Menor-McNamara said with the $600-a-week additional federal unemployment payment ending this month and the Paycheck Protection Program deadline for filing ending Aug. 8, she anticipates more closures.

“We’ll likely have other business impacted that serv­ice these restaurant and retail businesses that are all in the supply chain,” she said.

The report said 899 Honolulu businesses closed during the surveyed period, with 10.6% of them permanent.

“I don’t think we’re at that level yet where people are comfortable going out to shop and dine,” she said. “Four out of 10 businesses said they can’t open until tourism reopens. Now that the (tourism) deadline is extended, many businesses are running out of funds. It’s anticipated there will be more closures.”

Nationally, temporary business closures are decreasing while permanent closures have increased to the point that they now account for 55% of all closed businesses since March 1. As of July 10, total business closures fell to just more than 132,500 since March 1. That’s an improvement from June 29, when there were more than 147,000 business closures, and on June 15, when there were 140,000 business closures.

COVID-19 cases have been increasing as consumers start to frequent restaurants, bars and gyms, Yelp said.

The 10 states with the largest increase in COVID-19 cases in June and a significant increase in consumer interest in restaurants, bars and nightlife, and gyms are Florida, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Arizona, Texas, Georgia, Kansas and Alabama.

The 10 states with the largest decrease in COVID-19 cases in June, and relatively flat consumer interest in restaurants, bars and nightlife, and gyms are Massachusetts, Michigan, the District of Columbia, New York, Connecticut, Maryland, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Virginia and Illinois.

Interest for alcohol-­related activities, such as wineries and breweries, is up, while grocery is down, Yelp said. Formal wear and bridal shops are up, and people are heading back indoors for ax throwing, escape games and boxing.

There also has been an increase in consumer interest for urgent care and emergency rooms.

In addition, people’s interest in supporting the Black community by spending at Black-owned businesses continues to remain high.

There were more than 2.5 million searches for Black-owned businesses on Yelp from May 25 to July 10. That compares with about 35,000 over the same time period last year. There has been increased interest in specific Black-owned businesses such as restaurants, boutiques, doctors and bookstores.

Yelp’s survey is based on U.S. businesses that were open March 1 and were closed on that day and is signaled by a business owner marking the business as closed, including by changing its hours or through a COVID-19 banner on its Yelp page. Yelp also said it counts only closures that have been vetted by its User Ops team or have been updated directly by a business owner.

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