LIHU‘E — Just shy of its seventh anniversary, Ha Coffee Bar in Lihu‘e, known for its coffee and community connection, on Monday received a certified mail from the building owner’s lawyer stating they needed to immediately pay deferred rent or face eviction.
“During the last six months, we have stayed open with the purpose of keeping our people employed, paid (and) insured, along with continuing to serve the community as best possible as a place to gather, work, study and share life together,” Ha Executive Director Jeff Adams said in an email.
“We worked out a plan to defer part of our rent with the building’s owner as we navigated these months of COVID and being 60% down on our normal sales.”
Before getting the notice, Adams was hoping Kaua‘i could open up safely so he could sit down with his building owner and work towards a solution of paying pack his deferred rent over the nine remaining years of his lease.
“We were able to stay open, and we have made it through the last months through the amazing generosity of this community,” Adams said. “It’s been a long walk for all of us, and we can’t thank you all enough for your support during this time.”
Adams said he was able to contact the lawyers involved and send over a proposal for repayment based around the unknown future on Kaua‘i, but to his dismay it was refused and countered with a proposal that wouldn’t work for him financially.
“It’s not possible for us to accept both legally and financially, due to our nonprofit status,” Adams said. “It has put all of us here at Ha in a difficult spot.”
Ha Coffee Bar is owned by Seaside Kaua‘i, a church community, and the church does not make anything from Ha. Its mission is to help people in the community.
Adams said he remains hopeful, and is seeking community partnerships or other solutions to stay open.
“We do want to continue to serve this great community, but to do so requires a mindset of partnership towards serving the community of Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i,” Adams said.
“It’s possible, yes. But big things would have to change with our building’s owner to see that come through, and we are out of resources or leverage to see that happen.”
Ashlin Matsuyama has been working at Ha for five years, and echoes Adams’ thoughts when she first heard of the situation.
“There was hope that Ha would still be able to remain open,” Matsuyama said, “And that the landlord would understand that we are in the middle of tragic times. I understand he has bills to pay, and everyone is struggling in that. I can see both sides. It’s just really lame that he is going to kick out a whole family of people just for that.”
While faced with an obstacle, Adams is reaching out to the community, still standing strong.
“So, if you have ideas, contacts and opportunities, or just want to help, let us know, as we have some great people working for us that we would love to continue to support,” Adams said.
“We are working on a few plans as well, and will keep you posted. We are also working with the RSBA (Rice Street Business Association) on a media push to talk more about where we are at and look at how maybe you might want to partner with us with whatever is ahead.
“This is not the end, it’s just a beginning that we all did not expect,” Adams said. “We have hearts full of thankfulness and respect for a bigger story that is always at work.”
The County of Kaua‘i encourages businesses to check out resources on their Kaua‘i Forward website at kauaiforward.com/business/#businesses.