Facing serious fine, beach rental owner says he feels unfairly targeted

Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 11:50 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A beach rental shop in Waikiki is facing a huge fine for presetting lounge chairs and umbrellas before customers arrive.

“We’ve just spent our life savings to open the shop in the Ilikai and I’m just like David going up against Goliath, basically,” said Chris Sanger, owner of Duke’s Lagoon.

Every day, Chris Sanger and his team make the trek from his shop in the Ilikai Hotel to the other side of the Hilton lagoon to set chairs and umbrellas on the beach for customers.

In March, the Department of Land and Natural Resources began investigating Sanger after the Hilton Hawaiian Village complained about him setting up before renters arrive.

On two separate occasions, a DOCARE officer said there were umbrellas put up that were not in use for about an hour.

On April 9, a state investigator took video around 7:45 a.m. and reported 18 chairs on site, but no customers using them.

“I’m totally owning up to putting out the chairs and umbrellas because they’d already been sold, I wasn’t presetting and trying to sell them there I was waiting for the guests to show up,” said Sanger. “They’d all been sold the night before.”

In addition to giving Sanger a cease and desist, Sanger is getting slapped with a $62,000 dollar fine plus an extra $3,242.30 for the over 60 hours of investigative work conducted by DOCARE officers.

Sanger said he stopped pre-setting chairs after getting the cease and desist letter on April 14.

But DLNR said based on Hilton Hawaiian’s Village video taken on April 16, Sanger continued to place chairs on the beach.

As part of the investigation, DLNR shared videos the Hilton Hawaiian Village took on May 6. Their managing agent, Robert Martin, pointed out in one of the videos that six out of eight chairs set up on the beach were unoccupied.

“I don’t know where the other four people went, or the other three people, but they rent them as a family together,” said Sanger. “And then sometimes people leave, you know, and some of the family members stay.”

In the Hilton’s complaint, they say Sanger’s business is interfering with their own concession operation, which they run through Waikiki Beach Activities.

Longtime concession operator Clyde Aikau claims the Hilton is monopolizing the beach.

“The Hilton is claiming 100% jurisdiction on Duke Kahanamoku Beach, in their umbrellas, in their surfboards and in their aqua cycles, in their paddle boats, in their floats and everything else,” said Aikau. “They’re planning 100% jurisdiction and nobody else can come on this beach and set up an umbrella that is totally wrong.”

When asked for comment, the Hilton said that this is a matter between Mr. Sanger and the state.

Sanger will make his case to the land board Friday and says if he doesn’t win there, he will appeal.

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