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O’ahu restaurant owners excited to welcome back diners

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    O’ahu, HI (KITV) — Some Oahu restaurant owners are excited to welcome back diners without the fear of being shut down again.

They are cautiously optimistic about Honolulu’s economic recovery plan that would keep restaurants open even if COVID-19 cases go up.

Chef Roy Yamaguchi, a pioneer in Hawaii regional cuisine, says at 50% capacity, reopening night at his original Roy’s in Hawaii Kai was packed.

“We’ve been here for almost 32 years because this is a neighborhood restaurant. Parents said they worked here 30 years ago and now their kids are working here and we have people when they first came here they were eight, nine years old coming with their parents and now they have kids of their own that are dining here and that to me that’s just awesome,” Yamaguchi said.

He closed his restaurants in Waikiki and Turtle Bay and isn’t planning to reopen them until tourists fully return, but he kept his locations in Roy’s in Ko Olina and Goen in Kailua open.

It’s loyalty and support that keeps Yamaguchi inspired, in spite of what he calls confusing COVID-19 restrictions that unfairly penalize local business owners who follow the rules.

“There’s hundreds of thousands of people living in our community that do the right thing that want to continue to do the right thing,” Yamaguchi said.

The right thing Yamaguchi says is something he believes the restaurant industry has been doing for years, looking out for the health and safety of customers.

Veteran restaurateur Kevin Aoki of the Aoki Group says he noticed customers were more compliant with rules like physical distancing and mask-wearing. Dine-in is back at his restaurants Doraku, Bluetree Cafe, Qing Mu, and 1938 Indochine, which just opened in July.

“It’s so hard to open and close, open and close because you know, you buy all this inventory and then when you close, you gotta almost throw all the inventory away and then furlough your employees and then bringing them back. The management staff, everyone is up in the air. Hopefully, this has be the last time,” Aoki said.

“We’re fighters, you know, if we’re going to go down, we’re going to go down fighting, we have huge hearts, we want to see the good in people,” Chef Yamaguchi said.

Now with the city’s plan, restaurant owners say they feel more confident about planning for the future. They’ll focus on winning back diners who are looking for an escape during these tough times.

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