As eruptions drag on, businesses and workers face uncertain futu - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

As eruptions drag on, businesses and workers face uncertain future

Ongoing eruptions haven't just hurt tourism, they're hitting businesses like eateries especially hard. (Image: Hawaii News Now) Ongoing eruptions haven't just hurt tourism, they're hitting businesses like eateries especially hard. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Stephen Yundt, owner of an eatery in Pahoa, lives in Leilani Estates and so has been disrupted by the ongoing eruptions at home and work. (Image: Hawaii News Now) Stephen Yundt, owner of an eatery in Pahoa, lives in Leilani Estates and so has been disrupted by the ongoing eruptions at home and work. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
PAHOA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Nearly six weeks after eruptions started on the Big Island — and with no end in sight — many businesses in the hardest hit areas are struggling to stay open.

Pele's Kitchen, typically a bustling breakfast joint in the heart of Pahoa, is all but deserted these days. 

Since the eruptions began on May 3, forcing thousands from their homes and destroying as many as 700 homes, business at the eatery has dropped nearly 75 percent.

"The tourists have all left," said owner Stephen Yundt. "As more people keep evacuating more business is disappearing because everyone is in disaster mode."

That's something the restaurant owner is all too familiar with.

A month ago, the eruption forced Yundt and his wife from their Leilani Estates home. They managed to find a place but many of his employees have not.

"So they're staying at the evacuation center over here," Yundt said.

[As eruptions continue, land swap eyed for hundreds of evacuees]
[Ongoing eruptions have created at least 250 acres of new land on Big Island]

Server Alizae Swain said the hardest part "is just seeing this place empty."

Swain says without a steady flow of customers, it's been hard to make ends meet. Since the eruption started, her wages have been cut in half.

"Because my days are cut it's kind of hard to keep up," said Swain. "It's really hurting me not to have a job that's constant."

Pahoa is one of a number of communities bearing the economic brunt of the eruptions. 

Visitor cancellations have turned normally vibrant Volcano village into a ghost town. Kona and Hilo, both relatively far from the eruptions, are also both taking a hit. 

For his part, Yundt says he wants people to know Pahoa is safe.

"We're far enough away where it's perfect quality of life and everything is normal here. The air quality is good," he said.

And while there are no lava viewing areas currently set up, Yundt says he's got the next best thing.

"You can actually see the plume from the restaurant."

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