Expert: 1 in 4 Hawaii restaurants might not weather economic crisis

Unable to fill their dining rooms, several popular restaurants call it quits

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Restaurants statewide are now allowed to operate dine-in services, but many kitchens remain closed.

Some say making a profit isn’t possible with all the new social distancing and other restrictions.

Gregg Fraser is the former executive director of the Hawaii Restaurant Association and up until this month was the general manager of Viaggio and Italica Cafe in Kakaako.

The once bustling restaurants situated across from the Blasidell are now closed indefinitely.

“The investors pulled out,” he said. And now, he’s looking for buyers.

“The tourism industry affects everybody in the state of Hawaii,” said Fraser. “If we don’t have those visitors, where are we business wise?”

He’s far from alone.

After 55 years in business, the iconic south shore landmark Top of Waikiki has also closed.

Tourists made up 80% of the restaurant’s business.

In a statement, owner Leighton Mau said: “At 100% capacity and in a good economy, a restaurant can be run profitably. But with a business that can achieve only 50% of its normal revenue, it is not financially feasible to remain open.”

Across town in Moiliili, a sign went up outside Ahi Assassins telling customers Sunday is its last day.

“They catch all the fish themselves. They’re a super local family. Just amazing people,” said customer Julie Warech. “I had no idea they were closing.”

Many in line were upset at how the pandemic is changing the landscape of their community.

“I’m sad because it’s our local company closing,” said Rosalynn Edu.

Prior to the coronavirus, there were more than 3,000 eateries on Oahu alone.

Fraser predicts many won’t make it.

He says statewide up to 25% of Hawaii’s restaurants could go under.

“I think you’re going to see more places that are going to try and they’re just going to end up spending the rest of their savings and then the inevitable they’re going to go out of business,” Fraser said.

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