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Capacity limits lifted, though change ‘not much help’ to some

Some businesses say other rules prevent them from reaching full capacity

Signs about social distancing and mask-wearing are posted on the doors to Paia Fish Market on Front Street in Lahaina Friday afternoon. The state lifted capacity limits for some gyms, bars and restaurants on Friday, and while the changes were welcome, some owners said the restrictions still in place prevent them from actually reaching full capacity. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The end of capacity limits for gyms, bars and restaurants Friday came with mixed reviews as some businesses said “any lifting of restrictions” is welcomed while others noted that existing rules still stand in the way of achieving full capacity at their businesses.

Gov. David Ige’s most recent executive order went into effect Friday to allow “high-risk” businesses such as those at indoor restaurants, bars and gyms to operate at full capacity if the county has implemented a policy requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result obtained within 48 hours. Maui County and Oahu have these policies in place.

Otherwise, the establishments will still need to operate at 50 percent capacity.

However, indoor businesses still have to require that patrons remain seated with their party, maintain 6 feet of distance between groups, avoid mingling and wear masks at all times except when actively eating or drinking. Outdoor activity at restaurants, bars and social establishments no longer are subject to the restrictions, a news release said.

Katie Karsten, co-owner of Kahale’s, Maui’s Local Dive Bar, in Kihei, said the lifting of the cap, is “not much help at all” but “it’s moving in the right direction.”

“But with our square footage and with the social distancing requirements it won’t make a big enough difference to matter,” she wrote via Facebook Messenger Friday. “We will still be forced to 50 percent of our occupancy.”

A Zippy’s Restaurants official had similar sentiments on how the new order would apply to the Kahului restaurant.

“The lifting of indoor capacity limits may be good for some restaurants, but the 6-foot distancing requirements effectively reduces our capacity to 50 percent anyhow,” said Kevin Yim, vice president of marketing and communications. “Our dining rooms have many built-in booths that cannot be moved, therefore, we have to block those booths out.”

He added that most restaurants do not have excess floor space to take advantage of full capacity limits but still allow the 6-foot space between groups.

At Baked on Maui in Haiku, Manager Levi Young said Friday that “of course any lifting of restrictions would be welcome on our end. I’m sure we would see a lot of relief and appreciation from our customers as well, but the people that would be positively impacted would be our hard-working staff.”

Young said that “luckily” most of their seating is outdoors, so they have options for those who are not vaccinated.

They still receive a few complaints “here and there” for enforcing the restrictions, though.

Sean Higuchi, owner and strength coach at Anytime Fitness in Pukalani, said the lifting of capacity limits will help them and that the 6-foot distancing has not been an issue in the facility.

“We haven’t had to limit much, but have kept any usage limited to our local paying members because they are the most important part of our business,” Higuchi said. “We have been turning away any visitors who often pay for a temporary membership when on vacation.”

He added that “we have prioritized the health and safety of our community, but are excited to welcome back visitors when it is safe.”

“All Anytime Fitness locations have been working very hard to successfully provide a safe workout environment for our members,” Higuchi said. “We are all locally owned small businesses who care about our communities’ health and fitness.”

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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