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Restaurants not sole cause of Chinatown rat problem


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POSTED: Thursday, December 10, 2009

Several news stories during recent weeks focused on a sanitation problem in Chinatown. What initially began as a report on the impact of budget cutbacks at the state Sanitation Branch has now turned into a story that implies that restaurants are the sole cause of health and sanitation problems in the Chinatown community.

In a radio interview on Friday, restaurant owner Ed Wary more accurately reflected the issues. In Chinatown, as in other neighborhoods and communities, where rubbish and trash are left on sidewalks and alley ways, there is no doubt that rodents, feral animals and (unfortunately these days) people will be attracted. When combined with cutbacks affecting the number of employees in the Sanitation Branch, we are all facing a problem. And we should all be concerned.

Unfortunately, as is the case with so many issues these days, there are no simple answers or solutions.

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Leaving one of my favorite restaurants in Chinatown, I was appalled at what the owners must contend with outside their doors: neighboring markets leaving their rubbish, people sleeping with their pets nearby, etc. Complaints to the Sanitation Branch have met with unsuccessful results.

It's regrettable that there may, in fact, be some dining establishments that contribute to the problem in Chinatown, but to imply that restaurants and food service venues are entirely the cause is incorrect.

Customer and employee health and safety are paramount in our industry. The number of training and education opportunities available, the rules and regulations that the industry is required to follow, and the self-imposed policies and procedures that many have established for their companies are impressive.

It is critical for everyone to work together to resolve and fix these issues. In this case, let's work together for Chinatown and the businesses within.

After all, it's not just about the restaurants in Chinatown. It's about protecting and preserving a thriving community where people want to visit, live and work.

Chris Colgate is board chairman of the Hawaii Restaurant Association.