Bill Comerford and John Harrison have each owned and operated bars in Honolulu for decades, but both say that if COVID-19 restrictions are not lifted soon, they will lose their businesses.
“It’s crushed my business. We have no business. And we have hope, I do, that things get better and we get a chance to open,” Harrison told Spotlight Hawaii this morning.
“I’ve committed 29 years of my life to this, I’m just not walking away.”
Harrison owns Legends Sports Pub in Waikiki, which opened in 1993. Since the first lockdown in March, he has been allowed to open for a total of 53 days, hardly enough to generate the income he needs to fully cover rent or pay his employees.
“People may not see bars as essential, but the jobs are essential to the people that work here,” Harrison added.
Comerford, who is also the president of the Hawaii Bar Owners Association, owned four Irish-themed bars before the pandemic hit: Kelley O’Neil’s, Irish Rose Saloon, Anna O’Brien’s and O’Toole’s. All have had to close under the City’s tier system, and in the space of less than a year, he has seen years of hard work disappear.
“Obviously a business can’t stay in business without income. And that’s the circumstance we’re in. We don’t have the income to survive,” Comerford said. “I”m on unemployment…Our company has come apart completely.”
Both men said they are appealing to city and state leaders to allow bars to open under the same restrictions placed on restaurants.
“I think we can operate safely the way the bars do in restaurants. They’re doing basically the same thing we were doing,” Harrison said.
“All we want is opportunity. And you punish bad behavior. If the bars are not able to obey by the rules, then shut them down, as any other business. But we’re looking for the opportunity.”
Spotlight Hawaii, which shines a light on issues affecting Hawaii, airs live 10:30 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Facebook page. Join Ryan Kalei Tsuji and Yunji de Nies this month for a conversation with guests. Click here to watch previous conversations.