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Hawaii Restaurants Struggle to Feed the influx of Tourists


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Hawaii’s restaurants are having a hard time serving an influx of tourists returning to the islands as pandemic restrictions across the nation ease.

Restaurants in Hawaii are operating at 50% capacity, and Gov. David Ige says that limit will not increase until 60% of residents are fully vaccinated.

When that benchmark is met, restaurants will be allowed to operate at 75% capacity.

But capacity increases won’t help some restaurants with limited space, Hawaii News Now reported Tuesday.

On Maui, Cool Cat Cafe General Manager Paul Kemp said his restaurant won’t be able to serve many more people until social distancing rules change.

“Until we can kind of bring that down a little, 75% isn’t that much difference,” Kemp said. “So, if we can get 6 feet to 3 feet, that’s when everything will really come together for the restaurants and put everything really back to the old norm.”

People are currently waiting about an hour to eat at the cafe, he said. “Almost from open to close right now, we’re on at least somewhat of a wait,” Kemp said.

Kemp’s cafe does not take reservations.

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And restaurants that do take reservations are often booked, sometimes for weeks in advance.

“Things are booked out until July 31st, which is insane to me because this is June 8th,” said California visitor Samantha Ornelas.

The owners of Sale Pepe restaurant appreciate the safety measures.

“We need to be safe,” owner and chef Michele Di Bari said. “People think it’s over, especially people who are coming on vacation. They’re feeling like it’s over, but it’s not.”

The restaurant is booked until the end of the month and has increased its take-out and delivery business.

“We always remember that this is a temporary situation,” said owner and general manager Qiana Di Bari. “It’s uncomfortable right now. But things are going to be getting better and better as we go along. We just have to hang in there.”

The governor said all pandemic restrictions could end when 70% of the state’s population is vaccinated.

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