Kailua businesses feeling the pinch of months-long Pali Highway closure

Published: Jun. 3, 2019 at 11:42 AM HST
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KAILUA, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gail Allen owns Island Treasures Art Gallery, one of the first businesses that opened in Kailua 35 years ago.

She sells the creations of local artisans, but she’s worried she may have to close up shop since sales are down 40 to 50 percent. The reason: The Pali Highway has remained shut down ― save for weekday contraflows ― since damaging rockfalls in February.

The highway isn’t set to reopen until August.

“I’m really worried. I’ve already called the landlord to ask for some kind of help. It’s going to be difficult. I’m having a hard time. I might have to sell my house. It’s tough,” said Allen.

It’s tough for her and other businesses that rely on tourists who once flocked to Kailua.

Allen says her lease with Alexander and Baldwin has tripled over five years and she says this current hit has been more difficult than the 2008 recession and downturn after 9/11.

"We need help. We need you guys to open quickly. We need to get this construction done and get that road open," said Allen.

State officials are trying to protect drivers from more rockfalls and expect repairs to last through the busiest summer months.

The Pali is being contraflowed for commuters during rush hours and the DOT says any additional access would extend the overall repair schedule.

“Having to go to the Likelike and with the traffic being so bad at the H-1 interchange to get on the Likelike or all the way to the H-3, people don’t want to spend the time. A lot of the Japanese will have half a day to come to Kailua and they don’t want to spend two thirds of that driving and then get here and have no time,” said Mark Librie, owner of Pedego Electric Bikes Kailua.

Librie says his business is down only slightly because he relies on advanced bookings, but knows others are hurting.

“We have been lucky. We have the buses and the tour buses that bring us customers. The people who have walk ins have really been down. My friends who I ask own stores in Kailua, they’re all mentioning how bad business is,” he said.

Business owners say while they’re trying to stay afloat, they just want to encourage people to come shop, eat and play in Kailua.

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