Waioli Tea Room shuts down

Waioli Tea Room shuts down
Published: Dec. 30, 2014 at 10:11 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 31, 2014 at 5:23 AM HST
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MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Manoa landmark is once again in limbo. The Waioli Tea Room served up its last cup to customers on Monday. People continued to pull into the parking lot the next day, however, not realizing that the business had suddenly shut down. Even the restaurant's former operator missed the chance to dine there one last time.

"I'm very sad. I love Waioli," said Brian Jahnke. He ran the tea room from 2003 to 2013. He watched countless families celebrate special occasions at the historic site which first opened in 1922.

"It's part of Hawaii's history dating back to even Princess Kaiulani and the grass shack that's on the property, and so many Hawaii people have had weddings, anniversaries, birthday parties."

Jahnke decided not to renew his lease in late 2013 due to rising food prices and utility costs. The Salvation Army, which owns the property, took over management of the restaurant. Jahnke said the tea room employees saw signs of trouble.

"They had echoed concerns about how it was being run, and money being spent but not coming in, and business had gone way down," he said.

The 21 workers found out a week ago that the business would be closing. They received four weeks pay on their last day due to the short notice, according to a Salvation Army official. He added that the workers will be offered free job placement assistance from a staffing agency.

"It still can be profitable. It's just that you have to do high volume. The hardest thing is when you don't have alcohol because of the lease agreement with Salvation Army, alcohol cannot be served," Jahnke said.

The Salvation Army is in talks with a few local eateries about leasing the space. Officials are optimistic about reopening the property sometime next spring. A Salvation Army official said that a new operator wouldn't be required to serve tea, but the hope is that the Waioli Tea Room name will be kept in some form.

"It's just such a gem and I hope that it continues for years to come," said Jahnke.

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