Judge refuses to protect Waikiki beach boy concessions

Beach boys defy city order to vacate Kuhio Beach
Published: May. 15, 2018 at 9:12 PM HST|Updated: May. 17, 2018 at 6:35 PM HST
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WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A judge delivered a blow to the beach boy operators in Waikiki Thursday.

They were defying a city order to vacate their concession stands on Waikiki Beach, and have agreed to leave after they were denied a temporary restraining order that would have allowed them to stay pending further court action.

The watermen and supporters protested the way the city chose a new company to provide beach boy services on one of the worlds most popular beaches.  They claim the city improperly changed the terms of the bid to steer it to Dive Oahu, which they also argued was unqualified to provide the services.

They were seeking a temporary order that would prevent Dive Oahu from assuming the concession at least until another round of court arguments over a permanent injunction, which are scheduled for July.

Under Star Beachboys and Hawaiian Oceans Waikiki the beach boys had worked as independent contractors. Dive Oahu said it planned to hire the watermen, providing employment benefits and higher compensation.  So far, the beach boys say, most of them have refused to join the new company.

They continued to book surf lessons and equipment rentals on Tuesday and Wednesday despite a city order to leave the beach. The city had asked Dive Oahu, to hold off on taking over the stands until Thursday's hearing on the TRO.

The city argued that the contract was properly awarded to the low bidder and Dive Oahu would be capable of providing the services to visitors and residents.

But critics say the city and Dive Oahu are trying to end the traditional culture of beach boys by cutting their pay and by imposing a strict corporate structure, a criticism the company disputes.

"This is a change in management, not in a change of the beach boys, not a change in their culture or lifestyle," said Shelly Rofrits, manager of Dive Oahu.

Judge Dean Ochiai ruled Thursday that Star Beachboys would be unlikely to win the case and rejected the TRO request.

After today's ruling, the Department of the Corporation Counsel issued this statement:

The Judge's decision also reflects that the city appropriately terminated the revocable permit issued to Star-Beachboys for its stand. After today's ruling, the Department of the Corporation Counsel received a letter from the attorney for Star-Beachboys in which he informed the city that his "client indicated that Star-Beachboys, Inc. is currently moving equipment from Kuhio Beach Stand #1 and it will be off by this evening." As such, Dive Oahu, Inc. can proceed in the morning with operations as required under its concession agreement.

Star-Beachboys owner Aaron Rutledge vowed to fight on when the court takes up the request for an injunction in July.

"I think he made a mistake and I guess we're going to have to wait til July to prove it now," Rutledge said.

Rofrits, Dive Oahu Manager said they will wait until the current stands and belongings are removed before setting up shop, and repeated her invitation to hire the watermen, "Again, we're not removing any of the beach boys. We're not removing any of the employees. We still welcome them."

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