As the debate rages in Hawaii about the mandatory mask issue, since the CDC came out with its new guidance on masks and vaccinated people, one element of the economy that is affected by all this is restaurants.
Of course, we all know when the pandemic started, the hospitality industry as a whole took one, if not the biggest hit with mandatory shutdowns and such. With the relaxing of regulations on capacity and how patrons should conduct themselves, restaurants in the urban core of Honolulu are taking different tacks as to their operations.
But one thing that all of this relaxing has done is still keep a lid on capacity while the people cooped up in their houses over a year, are finally ready to hit the restaurant scene again. This was made very clear to me this week when a friend of mine met to go to lunch.
We met at one place, only to find out that it was closed (the website said they were open, but the Google info on the place said they were closed). We then scrambled and jumped into my car to go to another place.
Arriving there, we found a line out the door for those choosing to eat in the dining room. We didn’t even park, but left the establishment and started driving around. Along King St., we tried to go to an old standby only to find that they are not even doing dine-in service.
With some groans, we tried to figure out where to go next, continuing down the street we eyeballed a place that looked open, and didn’t have a line outside. Figuring there is a 50/50 chance on this place, we parked, jumped out of my car, and walked in to find finally a place that had indoor service and had seats.
Needless to say, my friend and I spoke about this saga in the context of “what is our government doing?” Since the day before, the Governor of the State of Hawaii came on television after the CDC guidance came out to say, specifically, he was not going to change one rule in the mask mandate.
In essence, he told the people of Hawaii to suck it up even more while, I dunno, his crack team of experts figures out what the infographic from the CDC means.
This tug of war between staying safe with the guidance coming out that we can be more relaxed now with our interactions while playing out is hurting the people that are back at work, both the consumer (the restaurant-goer) and the producer (the restauranteur).
As more restrictive rules are kept on people, while the rest of society makes the move to interact more in society, this tussle is going to become even more of a struggle. The fact is that the people are on the move in Hawaii, they are looking to return to normal life, and are getting less and less worried about their interaction with society.
Thanks to the vaccine, which we were told going back to the beginning of the COVID saga was the only real solution to solving the crisis, this relaxation can come with confidence. And it’s this confidence that our state government needs to start expressing should it want to play the role of supporter of society, rather than the oppressor.
In the end, the time for an adult conversation about reopening is going to happen, whether our Governor and Mayors want it or not.
And with the way our government is handling the new news of CDC guidelines and even big-box retailers finally announcing what vaccinated people can do in their properties, this conversation can’t come soon enough.
Because people want to go and eat, and take a seat doing it at the restaurant.