LIHU‘E – Restaurateurs on Kaua‘i are removing chairs from their dining rooms and relying heavily on delivery and takeout options as health officials continue to stress social distancing as the primary way to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
Centers for Disease Control now recommends people avoid gathering in groups of 10 or more. State and county officials are heavily stressing social distancing as well and are reiterating the CDC’s recommendation of putting six feet between persons at all times.
Monday, Kilauea Bakery &Pizza owner Tom Pickett was playing “hall monitor” outside his establishment, making sure only eight people were inside the building at once. He’s removed all of the tables from inside the business and many from the outside dining area. Pickett has also set up hand washing stations outside the front door of the restaurant and is only offering take-out options.
“It’s busy,” he said Monday afternoon. “There’s people waiting to come in. At this point, we haven’t been told not to open but we’re trying to stay ahead of the curve.”
Customers are encouraged to call ahead to order and only spend enough time at Kilauea Bakery to pick up their food.
Monday, Kaua‘i was also under a flash flood warning for most of the day as a thunderstorm dumped rain across the entire island. Pickett said he was slightly bending his new rules to let people sit in Kilauea Bakery’s outside lanai area in order to stay dry.
“It’s torrential raining and they have nowhere else to go,” Pickett said. “We’re all flooded, too. We’ve got COVID-19, flooding, power outages. It’s been something new happening every day.”
Pickett said his business isn’t seeing the usual spring break rush, but the dip in business has been “nowhere near catastrophic.”
“We’re doing a good average, a soft spring break because of it all,” Pickett said.
Other restaurants within the Historic Kong Lung marketplace are now practicing the same things — only providing takeout food and limiting the number of people allowed in their establishments.
In Lihu‘e, Rob’s Good Times Grill started curbside service in their parking lot. Customers just have to call in and place an order, then drive through the parking lot and pick it up.
“We understand that some people do not want to come to public places. We wanted to help so we started the order to take out- curbside in our parking lot. This is our way of being proactive,” server Jayleen Labrador said.
Verde, a Mexican restaurant in Lihu‘e has also removed tables and put more space between patrons, as well as between servers and restaurant staff.
“There has been some waits but people have been cooperative because they appreciate the space. But at the same time our general foot-flow is a lot less. We think Kaua‘i people are really doing their due diligence and really staying in,” office manager Nicole Stewart said. “Right now we are really taking it day-by-day basis. Today, we had a meeting with management. It has affected our sales but it’s going to be a day to day thing. Depending if sales are sustaining all the operation cost.”
Stewart said Verde now has home delivery from Hanamaulu to Kauai Human Society. There is a flat fee of $5 for delivery when ordering. Management is also considering ways to allow employees to rearrange schedules in light of COVID-19 precautions.
Yuki Flores, a host at Verde, said she’s been busy sanitizing the restaurant and keeping surfaces as clean as possible.
Fores’ motto is: “everything where light touches, we sanitize”.
“I got Lysol, Clorox wipes, and I clean everything. We sanitize every chair and table,” Flores said. “Every hour we sanitize every door handle, iPads, calculators, registers… The bartender sanitizes the bartending area and if anyone is sick, we ask them to be kind and to excuse themselves.”
At Aloha Aina Juice Cafe, business owner Misha Laney says her healthy juices, smoothies and shots are in demand.
“We been okay so far because we sell healthy products but we are worried. We will stay open until somebody comes and drags us out. But if things do get worse we will do home deliveries,” Laney said.
Employees have increased cleaning and personal protection measures, though, Laney said.
For others like Uncle Shave Ice, business is normal. “I think whoever has tourist will be okay. Nothing bad has happen to us yet and we haven’t had any sick people coming in nor are we getting sick,” employee Shenalyne Delacruz-llego said.
Kauai Bakery &Coffee in Kukui Grove Center is getting ready for St. Patrick’s day. They are making their famous green madasadas and are a hit with visitors.
“Its kind of slow but people are still coming in. Pretty much after early morning it picks up. We get a lot of tourist I notice,” employee Jea Kyla Sheyne Laganina said.
Christine Camara, owner of Great Harvest Bread Company near the old K-Mart in Lihu‘e, said the business also taking precautions.
“We definitely have seen a decrease (in customers) especially after the conference we had today, where the president advises people to stay away from bars, restaurants,” Camara said. “It has impacted us. We’ve been watching COVID-19 since it has become an issue a couple of weeks ago. We actually started an increase in our sanitation process. Any place anyone touches or place their bags we sanitized that area.”
She continued: “Any employees have been told to wash their hands by singing ‘Happy Birthday’ three times.”
Kauai Pasta in Lihu‘e is hopeful and grateful that customers are stopping by before or after the airport.
“Business has been slowed down just this week about 50-75%. However the fact that people are still coming in is awesome. Our menus are available online if they want to order takeout they can,” bartender Jacquie Dinnie.
While it’s difficult to rearrange schedules and implement COVID-19 precautions, it’s worth it for businesses according to owners. Kauai Chamber of Commerce president Mark Perriello echoed that sentiment on Monday.
“As things continue to deteriorate on the mainland and across the globe, the health and safety of the residents of Kauai should be everyone’s top priority. While it is too soon to hit the panic button, businesses should be taking appropriate steps now to prepare for the impacts of COVID-19 to reach our shores in the coming weeks,” Perriello said.
He continued: “Businesses should arrange telework options for eligible employees as soon as possible. The potential that citizens are instructed to shelter in place is a real possibility given what is happening in San Francisco and elsewhere. Allowing employees to work remotely will help slow the spread of the virus. Even though your employees may be young and healthy, they may interact with kupuna and keiki who are more prone to suffer the worst impacts of the virus. Letting employees telework protects our entire community.”