Hawaii restaurants still struggling but some are weathering the storm

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Restaurants continue to struggle and the number of those gone for good continues to rise.

Hawaii has lost 70 restaurants statewide since the pandemic started, according to Hawaii’s Restaurant Association (HRA).

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Likelike Drive Inn, Monterey Bay Canners and Alan Wong’s are just a few that have shut down for good. More are continuing to close, according to HRA executive director Sheryl Matsuoka.

“We just had word that Bubba Gump in Lahaina sent a message out to their employees, they permanently closed as of Easter,” Matsuoka said. “We’re still seeing the ramifications of the impact from the pandemic even though we’ve been in it for a year now.”

Char Hung Sut in Chinatown has been shuddered since 2020 and there is no word if they will be reopening.

Others — like Lucky Strike in Ala Moana — weathered the storm. Lucky Strike reopened Thursday, April 8, 2021, after being closed since March 15, 2020.

“We wanted to wait,” Lucky Strike bar manager Chelsea Morimoto said. “It’s been over a year for us. We wanted to make sure that all of us working as well as guest coming in would feel comfortable.”

Morimoto said, they have not been able to bring back their full staff yet and have a limited schedule.

“We had to downsize a little,” she explained. “We’re actually only going to be open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, for now. We just kind of want to see how things go.”

They hope to resume normal business hours soon.

Following protocols and distancing requirements while necessary has made it harder for restaurants that are already struggling, even under loosened Tier 3 guidelines.

“Going to 10 people per table. The hours have now gone from 10 o’clock to now midnight. Yes, that has helped some of the restaurants,” Matsuoka said. “But, Jenn, you know, it doesn’t bring back the numbers that we were in 2019.”

According to Matsuoka, it will take time for restaurants to bounce back from the the past year of shut downs and strict restrictions.

“We’re hearing there’s gonna be a slight bump in the summer and then we’ll see it getting a little better,” she explained. “And then their full recovery will probably be a few years.”

Matsuoka said, restaurant owners are hoping the roughly Restaurant Revitalization Fund will help them stay afloat until the economy improves. The $28.6 billion fund is part of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act and will provide grants to restaurants and other qualified food establishments.

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