DLNR says time's up for Big Kahuna Lu'au
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A public-private partnership has gone sour at an historic property up on Tantalus. After more than two years in operation, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources is ending the Big Kahuna Luau at the Nutridge Estate, the site of Hawaii's first macadamia nut plantation.
After repeatedly warning Discovering Hawaii Tours, Inc. -- the company which hosts the lu'au -- to correct numerous violations, DLNR says it's revoking their permit at the end of June
"We were really surprised, because we weren't expecting to have to leave," said D'Manti Diamond of Discovering Hawaii Tours, Inc.
The company first got permission to use the property in 2013.
In late 2015, the state ordered the business to correct a number of violations, including the restoration of an historic tool shed that had been converted into a bar. There were unauthorized stones and concrete installed, after the state says crowds turned the lawn into a muddy mess. It goes on to list unauthorized sinks that were installed and illegal discharge of grey water. There were disputes over parking and noise complaints from neighbors.
The lu'au says it's doing everything it can to correct the problems.
"We've honestly tried our best to do what the state wanted within a public-private relationship," said Diamond. "To bring a taste of Hawaii and teach our visitors about Hawaii throughout our lu'au and bring money to the state because the state needs it."
The state says the 22-acre property is no longer "suitable for a lu'au conducted several nights a week with up to 170 patrons with amplified music and drumming."
The news comes as a shock for the 50 plus employees who now say they have to look for a job elsewhere.
"I really appreciate everything the Big Kahuna Lu'au is doing for our Hawaiian culture it's sad the state is taking this away," said Lihau Keliikuli-Peters, an employee at the lu'au.
"We had to build the stage, the tresses, lighting, the sound and get the dining area ready to receive guests," said Diamond.
After spending more than $1 million establishing lu'au operations, Diamond says they're in the process of fixing the violations and is asking the state to reconsider.
"What I would like to see is if we were just given a little more time so that we don't have to have all these people without work, and we can properly find another place, that's what we would need," Diamond said.
The state allows Discovering Hawaii Tours, Inc. to use the property in return for 8% of its revenue. Since operations began in January 2014, the company says Big Kahuna Lu'au has generated more than $172,000 for the state.
DLNR officials say they've lost faith in the company.
The company and the state officials plan to meet on Monday to discuss plans going forward.
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