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Hawai‘i Restaurants are Reopening. Here is a List and Some Reasons Why

Although some local restaurants remained open during late March and April, some closed completely. Now, they’re reopening for takeout and delivery.


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tanioka's spam musubi

Tanioka’s Seafoods and Catering reopened for takeout on May 1.
Photo: aaron k. yoshino

 

After Fête closed a month ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic, owner Chuck Bussler and his team made the difficult decision to reopen for takeout and delivery on Monday. As Bussler was taking down the wood used to board up the restaurant, drivers honked their horns and cheered. They, too, were excited to see the restaurant open its doors again.

 

“It felt really heartwarming that people believe in what we do,” he says. “We’re really grateful we have so many people—regulars, friends and families—rallying behind us.”

 


SEE ALSO: Meal Kits to Grocery Delivery: How to Eat the Best Local Food at Home


fete Robynne Mai‘i chuck bussler

Fête owners Robynne Mai‘i and CHUCK BUSSLER. The restaurant reopened on Monday.
PHOTO: AARON K. YOSHINO

 

But Bussler admits that when he and his team made the call to close Fête on April 4 for safety reasons, “it didn’t feel like we’d ever come back from this.” The longest the restaurant had closed before then, with the exception of holidays, was one day, during Hurricane Lane in 2018.

 

They needed time to figure out logistics and how they could survive. They mapped out plans for the interim and the future, and came up with a new menu, all while working with a skeleton crew. They went through the menu and food costs and trimmed wherever possible. They used the time to work on projects and repairs that had been put off. And they took inspiration from friends living in New York who were trying to keep their businesses afloat.

 


SEE ALSO: Meet the Inspiring Woman Behind the Dishes That Whisk You Away at Fête


 

After a month of planning, “we felt comfortable reopening. It felt like the right time,” Bussler says.

 

Like Bussler, other restaurants in the Islands are reopening. And government officials are beginning to reopen parts of the state as well, in phases. The move comes as the state continues to see single-digit COVID-19 cases per day for the past few weeks.

 

tanioka's storefront

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino

 

At Tanioka’s Seafoods and Catering in Waipahu, the decision to close on March 25 was also out of a concern for safety. Chief financial officer Jasmine Tanioka says they wanted to ensure that their customers and employees would be safe before resuming food service.

 

During the shutdown, Tanioka and her staff planned how the shop would look and operate during COVID-19. That meant installing Plexiglas to minimize contact between customers and employees, putting tape on the ground so everyone stands 6 feet apart and starting curbside pickup. They reopened on May 1.

 


SEE ALSO: Best of Honolulu 2019: The Best Food and Drink on O‘ahu


 

“It was a difficult decision to make, but it was the right one,” Tanioka says about closing. “We felt that it was OK [to reopen] because the state was starting to reopen, and everybody felt comfortable [with it].”

 

liliha bakery poi donuts

Liliha Bakery on Kuakini Street will reopen on May 11.
Photo: Catherine Toth Fox

 

Angela Choi, chief of administration of Liliha Bakery’s parent company, Yummy Restaurant Group, agrees that the decision to shutter was not an easy one. Liliha Bakery closed all three of its locations on March 19. The Kuakini Street coffee shop and bakery reopens on May 11. If all goes well, the company will reopen its Nimitz location on May 18.

 


SEE ALSO: These 3 Family-Owned Eateries Are Bringing Local Favorites to Wide Audiences


 

The shop on Kuakini has been heavily cleaned and workers are stepping up efforts to sanitize surfaces. And operating hours have been cut—for the first time in the past 70 years, the coffee shop and bakery will not be open 24 hours a day. New hours will be from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

 

“This unprecedented event was a challenge since no one had ever experienced this kind of situation before, so the best we could do was make an educated guess,” Choi says. “Being closed gave us sufficient time to plan for a comeback and reopen in the best way possible.”

 


SEE ALSO: How to Dine In: 7 Delivery Services on O‘ahu


 

Restaurants Reopening

*This is a running list, so check back for updates.

 

READ MORE STORIES BY JAYNA OMAYE

 

 

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