Stewart Chung and his brother Andy opened their restaurant, EbiNomi, in Honolulu’s Waikiki District just before the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020. The restaurant’s comfort-style cuisine helped it survive the pandemic, but EbiNomi is now weeks away from closing due to a city ban on portable signs.

Since opening, Stewart has relied on a small A-frame sign (also known as a menu board sign) to help guide customers to his restaurant, which is tucked away in a private courtyard, nearly invisible to pedestrians from the street. However, last September a city inspector told Stewart he could no longer use his sign because Honolulu bans certain businesses from using portable signs, even if they’re on private property near sidewalks. Under Honolulu’s regulations, restaurants such as Stewart’s can’t use portable signs, but realtors, politicians, and others can. Stewart’s restaurant and others in the Waikiki District need signs to help customers find their businesses. Without those signs, sales at Stewart’s restaurant and others have plummeted, causing many to approach their breaking point.

Honolulu’s ban is almost certainly unconstitutional. Under the First Amendment, the government can’t censor an individual’s message because of its content. That’s why the Institute for Justice (IJ) sent a letter to city officials in Honolulu, calling on them to change their sign code before several popular restaurants in the Waikiki District go out of business.





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