HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There were customers waiting for tables at Sam Choy's Breakfast, Lunch and Crab on Sunday, which wasn't unusual for Easter Brunch. But those who were waiting knew that it would be the last time they'd have a meal at the Iwilei restaurant.
Customers lined up at the all-you-can-eat brunch buffet while cooks busily prepared more food. But many of the staff members were wearing lei and saying farewell to their customers. Some of the workers, including two waitresses, a bartender and one of the parking valets, have been at the restaurant since the day it opened in 1997, back when the economy was a bit different.
"It takes a lot more to keep it going with everything that's involved when you're looking at what we have to take care of," said restaurant general manager Jeff Gaspar.
For example, restaurant co-owner James Lee said electricity cost about $5,000 a month when Sam Choy's Breakfast, Lunch and Crab first opened. That cost is now upward of $25,000. Add increased food and fuel costs, and it was getting harder to sustain the 500-seat restaurant. Lee said when the lease was up, the decision was made not to renew it.
One customer is a human resources manager for Securitas Security Services. "Whenever you see a business close here in Hawaii, you kinda worry about the people that work there, and I know probably a lot of them worked here for a long time," said Lorraine Duque-Reyes. "What do they do afterwards?"
Duque-Reyes left a business card with the manager. "We're always hiring," she said.
Sam Choy's 50 or so employees were offered a chance to apply next door at Aloha Beer Company, which has the same owners. However, "It's not like we could take all of them there, only a handful, and everyone else will be looking for other work," said Gaspar.
Some customers enjoying their last Sam Choy's meal said it's getting harder to find a restaurant that's informal, yet special, that the whole family can enjoy. "We used to go Flamingo's and some of the other small restaurants," said Owen Abe. "We used to go to Wisteria, and they're all closed up. So now it's kinda hard to find places to go to eat."
Lee said currently, the economy and the trend is toward smaller restaurants. "Maybe Sam might be thinking about something somewhere else that's maybe not as big as a space we have right now. That would make a huge difference," said Gaspar.
After the Sunday brunch service was over at 2 p.m., Sam Choy's Breakfast Lunch and Crab closed its doors for the final time.