The Bar Scene Is Going Dark Again

Gov. David Ige did what needed to be done this afternoon. He said he’s in agreement with Mayor Kirk Caldwell that Oahu bars need to be shut down for an extended period of time.

 He said in a live news conference that “I am very much concerned with what we see happening. It is a dropping of our vigilance and implementing the mandates we’ve had to distance and to wear masks.”

The bar operators and owners will bemoan this. Some will have to close permanently, go out of business. But it’s a matter of community survival of this viral pestilence that seems to thrive where people don’t wear masks and tend not to observe social distancing.

That’s in bars. I’m sympathetic with the owners and operators who have done their damndest by and large to observe safe practices, but the facts tell us (1) you can’t drink and wear a mask at the same time, (2) people tend to talk loudly in bars, which carries the virus of an infected person up to 20 feet on mouth vapors, and (3) as people drink they become more social —close contact — not less.

Frankly, I don’t see a way to permit open bars until we have a Covid-19 vaccine. Yes, there’s probably less chance of passing the virus in an open-air facility like some of our resort bars, but again, it’s human nature to get close the more you drink and the happier you feel.

Ige is leaving restaurants open and they can serve alcohol. That’s low risk because people are seated in isolated, small groups and only drink briefly while eating. Caldwell is not allowing any bars to stock up on packaged sandwiches and chips and call themselves a restaurant. They have to primarily sell food and get at least 30% of their revenue from food.

Well before Ige’s news conference today, Hawaii Chamber of Commerce chief Sherry Menor-McNamara had said “The decision to close all bars would add to the pain of too many business owners who are complying with guidelines.”

Yes, Sherry, those business owners, except for a few scofflaws, have been complying but their customers have not. And the Liquor Commission just doesn’t have the manpower to realistically police our hundreds of bars nightly to catch customer violations.

And there’s that no-mask issue. Bars are not going to wall off each drinker like is done with dining guests in restaurants now.

Bars must be closed. If they can figure a way to drink by straw through a mask and maintain the 6-foot-separation minimum —- then maybe they can reopen.

But we all know that’s not going to happen.



Published by Bob Jones

Journalist since age 19. St. Petersburg Times, Noticias y Viajes in Madrid, Overseas Weekly in Frankfurt and Paris, the Louisville Courier- Journal, the Honolulu Advertiser, KGMB-TV, NBC News foreign correspondent in Africa and Southeast Asia, and MidWeek columnist. LL.B LaSalle University Law. 3 years in the U.S. Air Force. Covered: Biafran War in Nigeria (1968) Vietnam War (1969-73), Iraq in 1991. George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished journalism for reporting in China. 2 Emmys for documentaries. Married to journalist Denby Fawcett; one daughter. Brett Jones, foreign service officer, State Department.

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