Oahu bars closed by virus frustrated by license requirement

HONOLULU — Some Oahu bar owners expressed frustration about a requirement to renew and pay for liquor licenses they cannot use as the businesses remain closed by coronavirus regulations.

Bars were closed by the island’s emergency health orders at the outset of the pandemic, but the Honolulu Liquor Commission said voluntarily cancelling or not renewing means the termination of a liquor license, KITV-TV reported Saturday.

Those attempting to regain licenses will be considered new applicants who must go through the application process, which includes obtaining municipal approval and paying a $2,375 application fee.

The liquor commission said that as of Sept, 29 there were 1,426 active Oahu liquor licenses compared to 1,496 the previous year.

Bill Comerford, the president and founder of the Hawaii Bar Owners Association who owns four bars, said renewing a license can cost $10,000 to $25,000 in related fees.

“It’s not a set fee, it’s the cost of what you have to do to renew that license by notifying people in the neighborhood and going through the full process. It normally takes six months,” Comerford said.

The license renewal costs must be weighed against continuing to fund businesses that are not bringing in money.

“When you renew you have to pay a million dollar insurance policy for each of your bars,” Comerford said.

Bar owners also must gamble on the time before Honolulu Mayor Kirk Campbell’s administration allows bars to reopen by enacting the fourth tier of Oahu’s economic reopening plan. The island moved to Tier 2 in late October.

“My insurance of $20,000 to $30,000 is coming due in December,” said Shawne Garlieep, owner of Creekside Lounge in Kailua. “So do I renew all those then find out he’s still not going to open us?”

While all businesses want to reopen as soon as possible, circumstances dictate a “gradual reopening,” Caldwell said in a statement.

  1. I saw a Vampire once November 4, 2020 9:52 pm Reply

    How are the local politicians handling the situation? Are they enticing everyone else to open up to tier 4? Or sticking to the plan set forth by the city. $20,000 dollars is a lot. I don’t see how a town meeting would eliminate the need for an insurance policy. This looks like a higher order.

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