LIHU‘E — Over a week since new restrictions on restaurants have taken effect, businesses are bouncing back after initial confusion.
“It was difficult to find out what the new restriction are,” said Kaua‘i Beer Company Marketing Director Larry Feinstein.
The most current order, effective Aug. 10, required restaurants to reduce indoor capacity to 50%, down from 75% earlier this summer. Patrons must remain seated with their party with 6 feet of distance between them and other parties. No mingling is allowed under the order, and masks must be worn at all times except when actively eating or drinking.
The impact of the restrictions has affected businesses on Kaua‘i unevenly.
Kaua‘i Beer Company and Rob’s Good Times Grill, both located in Lihu‘e, have outdoor seating. Representatives at both restaurants attributed their outdoor seating to helping them to keep stricter COVID-19 protocols than the state and county currently require, so when the latest round of restrictions were instated, neither restaurant had to make any major changes to their operations.
That wasn’t the case in Kapa‘a at Olympic Cafe, which has no outdoor seating. Owner Troy Trujillo estimates that with the restrictions he can fit at most 60 people in his restaurant that has a capacity of 258.
The labor shortage is also adding to long lines, and in some cases forced restaurants to do midweek closures. Trujillo questioned whether or not the restrictions were making it difficult to attract workers.
“It’s extra work because you have to police things,” said Trujillo. “It’s really difficult.”
Rising COVID cases are also putting restaurant operators on edge. For Trujillo, that’s meant holding off on buying new equipment in case those funds are needed to survive another lockdown or more restrictions.
For some restaurants, take-out options have alleviated strains of the new restrictions.
Front of House Manager Gail Mande at the Puhi location of Kenji Burger estimates that 40% of sales are take-out.
“We’ve been doing really good here,” said Mande. But she also acknowledged that things have slowed down in the last week, and long waits for tables have caused some customers to walk out.
Rob Silverman, owner of Rob’s Good Times Grill, has noticed a slowdown in business as well. “People are concerned and not as willing to go out as much as they were,” Silverman said.
Several restaurant managers and owners, including Silverman, said that it has been incredibly challenging to operate in a feast-or-famine market. Some voiced fears that additional restrictions on dining and travel would have disastrous consequences for Kaua‘i restaurants.
Silverman expressed frustration at how long these challenges could continue. “People have to get vaccinated so we can move on,” he said.
Laurel Smith, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0424 or email@example.com.