Waikiki retailers find that reopening is only step 1. Staying open could be the bigger challenge.

Updated: May. 18, 2020 at 5:14 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Being allowed to reopen as restrictions are lifted may sound like salvation for businesses. The reality is not so rosy.

Many newly-opened retailers are making only a fraction of what they used to — and their costs remain the same.

Malie Kai Chocolates in Waikiki saw just 10 customers in 10 hours on Sunday.

The chocolate shop’s owner says since returning to work Friday, business is down 95%.

He says in 16 years it’s never been this slow.

“We’re heavily dependent on tourists,” said Nathan Sato. “I don’t think we can survive much longer without getting a cash infusion from somewhere.”

Sato says he was already approved for a Paycheck Protection Program loan, but because the company’s so small he wasn’t eligible for much. He used it to pay his workers and a fraction of what he owes in rent.

He said, “These loans help but we’ve got to get people coming back to Hawaii.”

Lt. Gov Josh Green said in an interview Monday that he expects tourism to start reawakening in earnest in July.

Green says in the meantime he’d like to see the state’s eviction moratorium expanded.

“Not just people in their homes,” he said. “But also for businesses. There’s no reason to have to do a reset on a small business after they’ve been in operation 16 years.”

Some landlords are helping out where they can.

Officials at Royal Hawaiian Center said decisions about tenants’ needs are being made on a case-by-case basis.

“They are having working discussions with our merchants on the rent,” said director of marketing Sam Shenkus.

Sato, meanwhile, says he’s still trying to hammer out an agreement and remains hopeful kamaaina can keep his shop afloat. "This is the perfect time to visit Waikiki, he said.

“As you can see there are no crowds, lots of hand sanitizer and social distancing is easy.”

In addition to kamaaina specials, there’s also free parking with any purchase here at Royal Hawaiian Center.

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