Combating rats the focus of class for Chinatown vendors - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Combating rats the focus of class for Chinatown vendors

Richard Elstner Richard Elstner
Dennis Loo Dennis Loo
Paul Min Paul Min
Ramil Seril Ramil Seril
Ted Li Ted Li

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (Hawaii News Now) - In the Chinese calendar 2009 is the year of the Ox, but it could turn out to be remembered for the rat after video surfaced of rodents crawling all over food in a Chinatown market. Now the community is trying to fight the image with education.

Since the rat video surfaced early this month business has dropped at the Kekaulike Market by up to 60 percent and 11 of the 22 vendors can't make their payments. That's in large part because people have had this reaction.

"Oh I would never go shopping there now no," said Richard Elstner, who lives right across the street from the market.

More cats aren't the answer, so to fight the ugly perception owners must fight the rat. In the first rat seminar people learned in just six months 50 rats breed into 2,000. All they need is a crack 1/4 inch wide to get in and they roam a radius up to 150 feet. And if they find food they'll return night after night.

"They may have a home base somewhere and walk into your establishment to eat and play. Then go back home," Dennis Loo, Hawaii Department of Health Sanitation Specialist, told the group during the seminar.

"I will fight with the rats. I'm at the market at 3:00 in the morning. That's my home. Nobody is going to take my home away and I will fight it," vowed Paul Min, You Market #2 Owner, during the seminar.

"I learned how to set up the trap and how to bait and not use poison for killing the rats," said Ramil Seril, Gabriel & Germaine Meat Market.

Trouble is Min and Seril were the only two owners who showed up. They say it's mainly because the 4:30 meeting start time was a problem because people are still working and because owners knew the media would be here and they didn't want to be pegged as the 'rat market'.

"I can guarantee next class will have more people," said Min.

Rats have been around for centuries and are all over the island. They do feel Chinatown is being singled out because of the video.

"I've been telling people it was only identified in the market, people associate with all of Chinatown which is not the case. Chinatown is no different from any other place on Oahu," said Dennis Hwang, Current President of the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce.

Even still they fear the word is already out that Chinatown is infested with rats.

"Education is one thing but we need to do, in my mind, something more drastic to bring back the confidence of the consumers," said Ted Li, Former Chinatown Chamber of Commerce President, during the seminar.

As much as they'd like to have a clean start it's a problem that can't be swept away overnight.

"We will clean best as we can with the help of management and community and vendors we will clean and be much more sanitized," said Min. "Give us time. It will be much much better."

There will be another rat class next Thursday. They are still working on a time that will fit more owners' schedules.

Tonight a state department of health representative said the problem is ongoing. State inspectors plan to return to Chinatown in the coming weeks to look for violations.

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