HONOLULU (KHON2) — Honolulu bars, restaurants and gyms could soon be required to ask customers for proof of vaccination.
Mayor Rick Blangiardi is expected to announce more details on Monday, Aug. 30.
He said he has been in discussions with cities that have already started a vaccine passport pilot program, but he said it had adverse economic impacts in areas where there was no option for a pre-test.
Blangiardi said on Friday he wants people on Oahu to have a choice.
“Really urging for vaccinations but at the same time requiring the workers to be tested weekly which has not gone on up till now so that’s one of the things that we’re going to do but we’ll talk more about that on Monday,” he said.
The Hawaii Restaurant Association has been involved in discussions with the New York City Restaurant Association.
“We’ve been able to talk to lawmakers there as well and find out what’s working and what’s not working and some of the things that are not working is that when you have a vaccination mandate, and if you do it blanket, and there’s no testing option, you can create a lot of pushback,” explained Hawaii Restaurant Association vice-chair Ryan Tanaka.
He said many restaurants opted out of the NYC vaccination pilot program because some staff were being met with belligerent customers and could face fines up to $5,000 if restaurants do not check for vaccine status.
“The great thing about mayor is he’s been calling he’s been listening, he’s really trying to understand how is it going to impact the community, and he’s trying to take more of a velvet hammer approach because something has to be done, we’re in a humanitarian crisis, right, we’re seeing record high case counts, and that is currently what’s in front of us,” Tanaka added. “At the same time, we have to balance that with an economic recovery. And so how do we find that delicate balance?”
Mayor Blangiardi said he does not want to do a lockdown when the minority of residents are unvaccinated.
The Hawaii Restaurant Association polled about 120 restaurants. Some were in favor of a vaccine passport but restaurants in zip codes with low vaccination rates were very concerned.
“If the vast majority of your customers are unvaccinated, what if they decide not to do takeout? You’re going to lose all that business,” Tanaka said.
One area that could be impacted is Oahu’s North Shore, which is less than 45% vaccinated.
The North Shore Chamber of Commerce manager, Roxana Jimenez, wanted to speak as a North Shore resident but said Haleiwa businesses could take a hit.
“It could very well be devastating to businesses,” she said. Jimenez is not vaccinated for medical reasons and believes the State is not on the same page and should not be mandating vaccinations
“I believe that the people of this state are not in agreement with what’s happening, it’s robbing us of our freedoms,” she said.
The retail sector hopes they will not be included in the vaccine passport and said their industry has kept COVID cases to a bare minimum.
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“The question is, how do you implement this in a retail setting?” Retail Merchants of Hawaii president Tina Yamaki said. “That’s not set up where you have checkers at the door unless you’re a membership retailer.”