Increased gas rates have small businesses fuming

Stephanie Ackerman
Stephanie Ackerman

By Sean Ibara

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Gas is an important source of heating for many island restaurants, and as the cost of this basic utility has gone up, many are finding it difficult to keep costs down.

For those who command the kitchen, gas is their friend. Here at Queen Street Cafe, that's no exception.

But over the past few months, the cost of this heavily used heating source has skyrocketed, and so has the bills.

"Well, we didn't want to raise the prices of our food", said Gwen Alejo-Herring, co-owner of Queen Street Cafe.

"When we first started the business, we wanted to do our plates with drinks included but after everything started going up, I hate to charge the customers but we had to do something otherwise we wouldn't be able to pay our bills."

And she's just one of many restaurant owners that have seen their gas bill creep up behind them.

"When I opened my bill one month, I believe it was in July, I noticed a significant amount had gone up so I called the gas company and I asked them was I using that much more", said Alejo-Herring.

The Gas Company says the increases are due in large part to the price of crude oil, which has been steadily rising.

"We hadn't raised our rates in 8 years and during that time the CPI or consumer price index had increased 24 percent", said The Gas Company spokesperson Stephanie Ackerman.

Add that to an ever-fluctuating fuel adjustment clause, and that's where the increase really kicks in.

"What is probably occuring on the bills of our customers is what we call a fuel adjustment clause. That fuel adjustment is directly tied to the cost of crude", said Ackerman.

But many argue that they weren't informed ahead of time about the change.

Ackerman responded, "we do send out mailers information to them when we had applied to the PUC for that rate increase we had gone out with public notices both in the paper, we had public hearings."

So for Alejo-Herring, she's now mindful as ever about not trying to get burned by the increase. "I just tell them the cost of gas has gone up and the cost of electricity I heard will be going up also, so this is the only way that we could manage to survive."

Queen Street Cafe owners say their gas bill has gone up by more than a hundred dollars a month.

The Gas Company says they encourage customers that have questions about their bill to call them, so representatives can explain the increased charges.