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Business owners appear unfazed as they prepare for new rules

                                Murphy’s Bar & Grill proprietor Don Murphy stood Tuesday night in a yet-to-be-opened area of the Nuu­anu Avenue establishment.
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Murphy’s Bar & Grill proprietor Don Murphy stood Tuesday night in a yet-to-be-opened area of the Nuu­anu Avenue establishment.

Some businesses don’t appear concerned with Gov. David Ige’s latest COVID-19 restrictions and aren’t anticipating any major changes to their operations.

In response to a spike in coronavirus cases, Ige on Tuesday imposed a 50% capacity, 6-foot distancing mandate on businesses such as restaurants, bars and gyms.

Customers must have their masks on at all times if they aren’t actively eating or drinking, and groups cannot intermingle.

The announcement was generally met without much concern, largely because the affected businesses saw the new rules coming and are already operating within them.

On Monday Don Murphy, owner of Murphy’s Bar & Grill in downtown Honolulu, will reopen a unit he is leasing next door so he can start taking takeout orders for customers who don’t want to dine in. Murphy said that during the past week or so, as statewide daily coronavirus counts jumped into the 600s for the first time, takeout has been a more popular option at the grill.

He’s also blocked off every other booth in the restaurant and taken away stools at the bar area to keep people separated.

He’s already been operating the bar and grill at about 50-70% capacity, so the new mandate doesn’t require that he change much.

“It doesn’t really bother me that they’re doing this. I think it might be the right thing to do,” Murphy said. “We weren’t really running 100% anyway, and I gotta be honest with you, I don’t think a whole lot of places probably were.”

Andy Flartey, general manager for Waikiki Brewing at Kakaako, said Ige’s new mandates won’t change the way the brewery operates. Even when indoor gatherings on Oahu were expanded to 25 people in July, Flartey said they stuck with groups no larger than 10.

“The new mandate didn’t really affect us, being that we kind of stayed the same. We weren’t really moving forward,” he said.

Zippy’s also won’t have to make many changes, according to Kevin Yim, the local restaurant chain’s president of marketing and communications. The chain has also already been operating within Ige’s new rules.

“The current 6-foot distancing rule has, effectively, kept Zippy’s at 50% capacity due to our built-in booths,” Yim said in an email. “We will continue to keep the distance between the tables and require masks when not eating. Additionally, our staff will continue daily health checks, mask wearing, and to sanitize tables in between guests.”

Marc Kenolio, owner of Iron Hawaiian Fitness Gym in the Kalihi area, said he might consider placing a time limit on how long people can be at the gym, but otherwise he’s not anticipating many changes, either.

Even when his gym is busy, it falls under 50% capacity, Kenolio said, although bigger gyms with thousands of customers might have to make some changes.

“I have anywhere from 20 to 30 people in here when it’s busy. I have about a 10,000-square-foot area, so 30 people is like 20% (capacity) maybe,” he said. “I don’t have to change anything really.”

Bar and restaurant owners had been more upset at previous mandates than those Ige announced Tuesday, in part because the upward-trending coronavirus cases made the new mandates predictable.

Murphy, for his part, said safety from the virus is more important than the lost business he’s anticipating.

“The safety of our customers and my staff is the foremost thing on my mind. So if it hurts my business and my sales, that’s the way it is. It’ll come back. … You just gotta fight through it,” he said.

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