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Local businesses send reopening letter

Protest against emergency orders took place Friday

A group of about 20 protesters waved signs in front of the State Building in Wailuku on Friday at about 12:30 p.m. KEVIN J. OLSON photos

Opposition to the coronavirus emergency orders are beginning to go public with a protest of about 20 people in front of the State Building in Wailuku and a letter from well-known local business leaders asking Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino to start opening up the economy.

“If we act now and put together an aggressive plan to restart the Maui economy as well as minimize health risks, then businesses can begin the process of contracting vendors, employees, customers and preparing to smoothly transition and reopen,” the letter to Victorino dated Thursday said. “We are facing an economic meltdown due to the shutdown.”

Byron and Kimberly Brown, owners of Akamai Coffee Co., are the main forces behind the letter but other business leaders signing on the letter included Bev Gannon of Haliimaile General Store and Bev Gannon Restaurants; Aaron Placourakis, owner of Nick’s Fish Market, Sorento’s, Koho’s Bar & Grill and Manoli’s Pizzeria; and Janis and Tom Fairbanks and Shelly Harris of Old Wailuku Inn.

The letter notes the reduction in coronavirus cases since the outbreak was identified in March and thanked the mayor’s administration for “its hard work and leadership to protect our community during the crisis.”

“But is has become clear that the status quo is not economically or socially sustainable, even in the short term,” the letter said. “The stress of economic devastation and curtailed civil liberties could one day soon become untenable.”

Signs protested the stay-at-home emergency orders imposed by Gov. David Ige and Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino.

Byron Brown said Monday that he has made two calls to Victorino’s Chief of Staff Tyson Miyake and is awaiting a return call about the letter. He emphasized that local businesses can be reopened while maintaining public safety.

He also made the point that large Big Box stores remain open, as essential businesses, and their revenues leave the island, unlike local businesses, and that large numbers of customers funnel through those stores, creating potential health issues.

“We kind of have to begin something,” he said, noting that “it’s not going to be immediately great” without tourism. “We are going to be at 30 percent max” but local businesses “need a shot.”

Regarding the protest Friday, about 20 people gathered in front of the State Building to express their opposition to the emergency orders. Signs read “I Do Not Consent To This Lockdown: Demand Full Disclosure,” “Open All Of Maui Now,” and “Re-open Maui, Small Businesses, Jobs, Churches.”

* Lee Imada can be reached at leeimada@mauinews.com.

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