New proposal would offer tax breaks to ‘ocean-friendly’ restaurants

What if a business could save money by being ocean-friendly?

A new proposal before the Honolulu City Council would offer a tax break to those restaurants.

The idea behind Bill 80 is to promote ocean-friendly practices at restaurants. In return, businesses could save money on their property taxes each year.

In order to get the tax break, restaurants must be certified as ocean-friendly by the Surfrider Foundation.

That means restaurants can only use take-out containers that are compostable or recyclable, proper recycling practices must be followed, and they must have reusable tableware for on-site dining. No plastic bags are offered either.

Restaurants would be able to file for the tax exemption once they’re certified.

“Being a small business owner in Hawaii, it’s very expensive to operate a business here, so every little bit helps,” said Christian Self, who owns Bevy in Kakaako.

The restaurant has been certified ocean-friendly for about a year.

“We have metal straws instead of plastic straws. All of our containers and everything we use is all made from biodegradable, reusable, recycled plastics and paper goods,” Self said. “When we first opened, in our business plan, we wanted to make the smallest ecological footprint that we could.”

Self says their eco-friendly practices appeal to customers, and if the measure passes, he hopes it will appeal to other restaurant owners.

“Everybody should be a little more social and eco-conscious. Just doing the little things like ‘I don’t actually need that straw’ actually does make a huge impact,” Self said.

The bill doesn’t state how much of a tax break the businesses could get, but the property must be exclusively used for an ocean-friendly restaurant.

If the bill passes, restaurants would need to be re-certified as ocean-friendly every two years.

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