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Deadline to use Hawaii restaurant holiday cards is looming

Some $333,000 worth of gourmet meals, take-out orders, beverages, and cocktails have yet to be purchased, using gift cards that have already been issued, according to the Hawaii Restaurant Association.

The deadline to use the Hawaii Restaurant Card — Business Holiday Card is at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.

“Please, visit your favorite restaurants,” said HRA executive director Sheryl Matsuoka. “If you can dine in, that would be awesome. If you can’t, take out. If you can’t, buy a family pack and throw it in your freezer.”

The state, in partnership with HRA and others, made the debit cards available for purchase to companies back in mid-November as a way to further support Hawaii’s restaurant industry.

Companies could buy the preloaded cards in denominations of $5 to $1,000 to give to their employees or clients over the holidays.

More than $1 million has been spent at restaurants using these cards. As of today, however, there are still some 20,000 active cards out there, with $333,000 total remaining on them.

This card is not the same as the $500 Hawaii Restaurant Card that the state issued for free to qualified recipients on unemployment insurance using CARES Act funds during the pandemic last fall.

This card followed on the heels of that program, but was made available to the private sector, with the support of local banks and businesses.

Although customer traffic is picking up, Matsuoka said many restaurants are still struggling to recoup losses from last year. Any dollars spent at restaurants helps keep employees in their jobs, she said, and support the rest of the food supply chain.

Matsuoka believes most restaurant card holders have simply forgotten that they have them, and the deadline to use them.

“Look in your wallet and spend it,” she said. “Don’t let it expire.”

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