HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After filing for bankruptcy protection and losing famous brand name back earlier this year, the former Sizzler restaurants on Oahu are shutting down.
GoKo Steak & Salad Bar Restaurants today closed its Kalihi, Waipahu and Pearlridge restaurants, laying off about 100 part-time and full time workers.
"A decision was made to shut down our operations as of the end of business tonight," said Clinton Goo, GoKo's owner.
Sizzler had been in Hawaii for about 50 years and GoKo had operated the franchise for about a decade. But in April, the local company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with $1.3 million in debts.
(A Chapter 11 filing allows a company to remain open while it reorganizes its business and negotiates with its creditors.)
But today, the company asked the federal bankruptcy court to convert the reorganization into a Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy, which shuts the company down.
Despite the company's recent financial woes, several longtime employees said they were caught off guard.
"Sad, real sad. It's like 33 years here in this store," said Kehau Mailou.
Aiva Marquez, who also has worked for the company for more than 30 years, added:
"I was surprised. I didn't expect it this soon. We knew something was coming but we didn't expect it today."
The company cited Hawaii's high cost of doing business as a major factor.
"(It was) very challenging -- very challenging -- dealing with food costs, dealing with the utilities, dealing with those expense while putting out a quality product for our customers," Goo said.
At its height, the company employed as much as 150 employees but has seen its payroll decline to about 100 before today's closing.
Filings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court today show that GoKo was unable to pay rent for its Dillingham, Waipahu and Pearlridge locations for June and July and wasn't going to be able to cover the rent for August.
The company shutdown its Aikahi Park Shopping Center location in Kailua last month but is now in the process of selling the restaurant to another company. The sale requires Bankruptcy Court approval.
Customers today said they were sad to see the restaurants go.
"This is kind of an end of an era. And I think a lot of people when they see this will be very sad," said Moiliili resident David Tasaka.
Added Leslie Chee of Kaneohe: "We'll be missing the staff here. We got kinda friendly with them."
Attorneys for the company will be in Bankruptcy Court on Monday to get approval to sell the Kailua restaurant.
From there, the Bankruptcy Judge Robert Faris will likely appoint a trustee who will oversee the liquidation of the company and sell off some of its assets to pay off creditors.