by: Nikki SchenfeldPosted: May 21, 2021 / 06:30 PM HST / Updated: May 21, 2021 / 06:30 PM HST
HONOLULU (KHON2) — Graduation season is underway and many families are finding new ways to celebrate safely with fewer restrictions in place then in 2020.
It is the second year in a row that large graduation parties have been put on hold due to COVID-19.
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Restrictions for social gatherings are still in effect.
Ten people can gather inside and outside on Oahu, ten people can gather inside and 25 can gather outside on Hawaii Island, five can gather indoors and 25 people can gather outdoors on Kauai and ten people can gather inside and outdoors on Maui.
“We do have some rule changes that we’re asking for, but those have not been approved yet [by Gov. David Ige], said Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth. “So, when people are out we just ask that it’s better to be outdoors than indoors and to be safe. And follow the rules that have really been in place all along. We want our kids to have fun, but we want them to be safe.”
Pre-COVID, the Pagoda Hotel would sell out its three balrooms every graduation season one year in advance. They have two graduation parties in the books as of Friday, May 21.
“Our ballroom right now, it usually can fit 400 people, but because of COVID, we have to social distance them six feet apart,” explained Darlene Leones-Akiu, catering sales manager at Pagoda Hotel. “So right now we’re only doing 100 people, we can’t serve a buffet, so we’re doing stations where we actually have our staff serve the food, or you could do a set menu.”
She says it is tough because people are not allowed to dance or mingle between tables.
“We have a lot of call inquiries for next year already hoping, hoping we get back to normal,” she added.
Leones-Akiu says they had a lot of bookings earlier in the year for the 2021 graduation season, but the uncertainty of tiers forced them to cancel.
Many families in the meantime have opted for outdoor restaurant reservations.
“We have absolutely seen an uptick in reservations,” explained Michael Miller, director of operations at Tiki’s Bar and Grill in Waikiki.
“We’re seeing people wanting people to be more intimate, maybe only inviting the grandparents or the real close family friends,” he explained.
He recommended parties of four or more make reservations well in advance at all restaurants across the state due to the high demand.
“We’re getting close, and as more people get vaccinated, there’s more hope for bigger changes in the future,” Mayor Roth added. “So we’re hoping that people continue to get vaccinated because the higher that percentage is, the more likely it is we can start dropping a lot more of our restrictions.”