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Kihei bars close after possible exposure to COVID-19 patron

Voluntary move aids cleaning, gathering of further information

COVID-19 rules are posted outside a bar at Kihei Kalama Village. Kihei Kalama Village Bar Owners Association announced the brief closure Monday of its seven bars in the village as a precautionary measure after a possible COVID-19 exposure. The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

KIHEI — About 10 South Maui bars and restaurants temporarily closed Monday as a precautionary measure after possible exposure to a COVID-19-positive patron, according to business officials.

Seven bar and restaurants in Kihei Kalama Village, along with Diamonds Ice Bar and Grill, Fred’s Mexican Cafe and Moose McGillycuddy’s, closed Monday for extra cleaning, possible employee testing and to find out more information on the incident, business announcements on social media said.

Mikhail Tassi, general manager of South Shore Tiki Lounge in Kihei Kalama Village, said their association of seven village bars met Sunday night to discuss news that a person who later tested positive for COVID-19 had visited area establishments Friday night.

“As soon as everyone found out, we started talking and figured it’s best to err on the side of caution,” he said. “Kihei is a small town. It’s even smaller with no tourists. We all want to try and be as proactive and safe as possible.”

Tassi said he doesn’t believe the COVID-19-positive patron came to Tiki’s, but the Kihei Kalama Village establishment where the individual did visit called the state Department of Health, which is handling contact tracing.

DOH declined to provide details Monday, saying it “cannot comment on any ongoing investigations.”

“Food establishments work with the Food Safety Branch and DOH during investigations to determine the exposure and risk to the employees if there is a COVID-positive case identified,” the Hawaii COVID-19 Joint Information Center said in an email.

Evelyn Long, Kihei Kalama Village property manager, said the association of bar owners made the decision to close for 48 hours to “take precautions for the well-being of the community.”

“I commend them for doing that,” she said.

Penny Putnam, general manager of Fred’s Mexican Cafe and Moose McGillycuddy’s, emphasized that businesses were not ordered to close but decided to temporarily shut down to clean and inform employees. She said her locations are reopening today.

Diamonds Ice Bar and Grill said that due to a positive COVID-19 test in the Kihei area, the sports bar was closed Monday for additional cleaning and to await further information.

“Thanks again for all the support and we look forward to safely serving you soon,” the company said on its Facebook page.

After most businesses were shut down in March, Maui County bars were among the last businesses allowed to reopen in mid-June with COVID-19 prevention measures in place including physical distancing and face mask mandates.

On Oahu, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced a three-week closure of local bars starting July 31 after a cluster of cases was connected to some establishments.

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.

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