Iolani Palace leadership: ‘The palace is in trouble’ and needs your help to stay afloat

Updated: Jun. 19, 2020 at 5:27 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Iolani Palace reopened to visitors Friday, but with limited hours, strict social distancing rules ― and a warning about its uncertain future.

“The palace is in trouble,” said Paula Akana, executive director of The Friends of Iolani Palace, at a news conference Friday. “We really need your help buying a ticket.”

The palace was forced to close during the statewide stay-at-home order.

But while it couldn’t welcome visitors, its expenses continued.

Akana said the palace has already incurred more than $600,000 in losses. With no new revenues coming in, she said, the palace would run out of money in three to four more months.

“We’re losing about $7,700 a day,” Akana said, adding that social distancing requirements will dramatically limit the number of people allowed into the palace over the course of a day.

For now, self-guided audio tours will be available on Friday and Saturday, from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.

More days will be added in the future, Akana said.

Tours have to be booked in advance, either online or by phone, and temperature checks will be required for all guests prior to picking up tickets on palace grounds.

Visitors will be required to use face masks while on tours, and staff will increase the frequency with which they clean highly-touched and highly-trafficked areas.

“I really hope that you will come and visit,” Akana said. “We’re hurting badly.”

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell joined Akana on Friday in urging local residents to support the palace.

“We’re asking all kamaaina, the million strong of this island and the ones that come from the neighbor islands, come visit Iolani Palace,” Caldwell said. “They’ve been shut. No revenue whatsoever. But they have huge upkeep challenges that don’t go away in an old, old, old building.”

In the past, much of the palace’s maintenance costs were covered by Hawaiian royalty descendant Abigail Kawananakoa. But during the past several years, her fortune has been tied up in a contentious legal battle.

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