After lockdowns and layoffs, businesses are feeling something new: Optimism

Updated: Mar. 26, 2021 at 8:23 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Businesses say things are looking up. Since the pandemic, Hawaii businesses have faced many challenges from navigating lockdowns, laying off workers and even having to close their doors.

But, those in charge of the Hawaii Commercial Rent Survey said this quarter is looking hopeful, especially as PPP loans are likely to be extended.

Ryan Tanaka, president of Island Business Management and owner of Giovanni Pastrami in Waikiki, partnered with other organizations to conduct the commercial rent survey. Currently, the survey is in it’s fourth go-around and he said businesses are feeling more optimistic since the last quarter in December.

“We’re starting to see a speedy recovery,” Tanaka said. “We anticipate the forward-looking outlook period of our survey results to be more favorable, although we don’t expect a significant improvement.”

Although many business owners are optimistic, they are still climbing out of a deep hole.

“Businesses are working out the back rent with their landlord until a commercial rent relief program is implemented,” Tanaka said.

Tanaka and others are crossing their fingers for House Bill 1324, which would create a program that would administer commercial rent relief grants. Tanaka said it could hopefully provide up to three months of unpaid back rent for hardest-hit businesses.

This potential grant could add to the relief businesses received along with PPP loans and other assistance, which Tanaka said has not been enough for businesses to turn the corner.

The United States Senate voted to extend PPP loans until May, which gives more opportunities for owners to receive help.

“For a lot of them, the first round of PPP was the only help that they got,” said Tina Yamaki, president of Retail Merchants of Hawaii. “We’re hopeful that the second round is going to be able to float more businesses, so they can stay alive, hopefully for at least the next year.”

Sarah Nguyen, who owns the Pizza Press in Pearl City, said two rounds of PPP has definitely helped.

She said in recent weeks, her team has kept busy as more families feel comfortable eating out. However, it will be long before she makes up for the money she’s lost.

“I’m optimistic,” Nguyen said. “I’m very glad that we got to Tier 3. It’s been good for us.”

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