Businesses rally to ‘keep Dillingham open’ during rail construction

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Keep Dillingham open.

That’s the message some businesses along Honolulu’s planned rail route are sending to Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation officials.

For more than 60 years, Violet’s Grill has been operating on Dillingham Boulevard, but the owners are unsure of the restaurant’s future.

“We probably might have to shut down because of the rail,” said Joey Suehisa, co-owner of Violet’s Grill.

A couple of years ago, the access from Dillingham was closed for renovations.

“It took a kind of big toll on us,” Suehisa said. “I’d say more than 50 percent.”

If that happens again because of rail construction, the longtime business may close its doors.

Business owners in the area are bracing for the worst after seeing what has happened to others along the rail route on Farrington and Kamehameha highways. Many are struggling, blaming construction and a lack of foot traffic. Some, such as Flamingo Restaurant in Pearl City, closed.

About 350 businesses in the Dillingham area have been invited to a meeting with HART officials. Organizers hope business owners learn more information about the project and share their concerns.

Jim York owns Dillingham Boulevard Self Storage and has been one of the meeting’s organizers.

“We’re concerned that because of the multiple utility relocations, so that people understand it’s not one thing. They have to move, for instance, the waterline to be able to do the electrical,” York said.

Even though construction in Kalihi won’t begin until at least next year, a HART spokesperson says officials are trying to work with businesses now.

They’re discussing the possibility of closing portions of Dillingham at night, to help with traffic and construction concerns during the day. They believe doing that would also cut construction time by 20 percent.

“If it does affect business, what will you do?” KHON2 asked.

“Well, we haven’t really thought of a plan B yet, but we’re going to have to,” said Vailana Madali, employee of Violet’s Grill.

Businesses on Dillingham Boulevard or in that area are invited to the meeting with HART.

It will be held on June 14 at 1 p.m. at Dillingham Boulevard Self Storage, 935 Dillingham Boulevard.

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