Bar owners sue Honolulu over tiered virus reopening plan

HONOLULU (AP) — Some Honolulu bar owners have filed a lawsuit claiming the city's tiered system for reopening businesses during the coronavirus pandemic is arbitrary.

Bars and nightclubs on Oahu remain closed under emergency orders to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and bar owners fear the closures could last into 2021, Hawaii News Now reported Wednesday.

Bars have been placed in a high-risk category in the tiered system and are expected to be in the last round of businesses allowed to reopen.

The system requires Oahu’s seven-day average to fall below 20 new coronavirus diagnoses for two consecutive weeks before the city will consider letting bars reopen.

“They’re begging for the opportunity to comply with restrictions,” said attorney James DiPasquale, who represents the owners. “These bars, some of which have been around for 30 years, are forced to close and they may not reopen.”

The plaintiffs include some bars that have closed permanently because of the economic impact resulting from the health restrictions.

The plaintiffs say it's unfair for restaurants to be allowed to reopen as long as they serve food, despite also selling alcohol as a part of their regular menus.

Representatives of Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell's administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Hawaii News Now.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.