HANALEI — Four months after torrential rains caused flooding on Kauai’s North Shore, one business is still closed and renovating.
But it’s expected to open in the first two weeks of September.
“We’re basically building a completely new restaurant,” said manager Morgan Needham, who has been at the Hanalei Dolphin Restaurant for 10 years. “When we re-open it’ll probably be a similar layout, but it’s going to be fresh, new and different.”
The Hanalei Dolphin Restaurant, Fish Market and Sushi Lounge welcomes visitors and residents to Hanalei Town. Situated alongside Kuhio Highway next to the Hanalei River, the restaurant has outside dining space under blue umbrellas.
Since the early 1970s the restaurant has been a favorite in the Hanalei community, with fresh seafood and local ingredients in its dishes, and a sushi bar was added in the early 2000s.
While dinner at Hanalei Dolphin is popular, what’s really been missed is the adjoining fish market.
“We realize how special it was now,” Needham said. “You realize how special it is and how there really is nowhere to get fresh fish in a market.”
On the evening of April 14, most of the Hanalei Dolphin’s 80 to 100 employees were on hand, working a busy shift while stuck on the Hanalei side of the river after the road closed.
The river rose and wiped out employees’ cars and the outside seating area. Water decimated the inside of the restaurant, flooding to about chest-high inside the building.
“We had to gut the place. It ruined every single piece of equipment,” Needham said. “The computer, the coffee machine, the grill, soda machine, the fridge, the walk-ins — everything.”
Once the waters receded and the cleanup effort began, Hanalei Dolphin was one of dozens of businesses and homes that needed to be sanitized and stripped. Layers of mud had to be scoured from walls and floors.
With volunteers cleaning Hanalei School and the Waioli Huiia Church, the Hanalei post office being closed for repairs, buildings being used as staging areas for organizations like Samaritan’s Purse, and demolition and cleaning operations ongoing at nearly every street corner, the management at Hanalei Dolphin was thankful to receive help, too.
“The community was amazing,” Needham said. “We had a lot of people stopping by and volunteering and helping. Staff were volunteering their time, management was here, and it was a collective effort.”
Now, as renovations continue, most of those nearly 100 employees are on unemployment and looking forward to the reopening of the Hanalei Dolphin Center.
“Everyone’s ready to be back to work and we’re anxious to get open,” Needham said.