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Saenz Ohana Breakfast draws ire trying to be safe

  • Photo courtesy of Juan Saenz

    Saenz Ohana Breakfast in Princeville announced Oct. 14 on its Facebook page their intention to refuse to let tourists dine in their establishment. Juan Saenz, the owner of the food truck, said he felt the media is blowing the story out of proportion.

PRINCEVILLE — The decision to allow visitors to only order online and pick up while serving residents with a Hawai’i identification in person has created a lightning rod of controversy on social media for one Kaua’i food truck.

Saenz Ohana Breakfast in Princeville announced Oct. 14 on its Facebook page their intention to refuse to let tourists dine in their establishment.

“As we open back up to tourist-visitors, we are taking safety precautions and only allowing visitors to order online and pick up! Only residents with a local state ID will be allowed to order, and sit and eat!” the Facebook post states. “Our plan is to keep our area safe from travelers so the locals can have somewhere to feel safe eating and not crowded by visitors that may or may not be COVID positive! We also want to keep my family safe and stay open for everyone to be able to eat.”

Juan Saenz, the owner of the food truck, said he felt people are overreacting to his company’s request.

“People are blowing this out of proportion,” Saenz said. “We are just trying to keep our family and other customers safe.”

Saenz stated one of the reasons for his decision was the size of his seating. There is only a 10-foot by 20-foot shade cover, and two picnic tables outdoors, which they are reserving for customers who have not traveled or been in contact with someone who has traveled.

“Our choices are made for one thing only, and that is the safety for me and my family, and also to our customers that have followed a 14-day quarantine or have been here on Kaua’i and have not traveled,” Saenz said in a written statement. ” These are scary times, and a lot of people in Hawai’i are very unsure of how things will go after we have opened to travelers once again. We love our traveling customers, but we are just asking to take a few extra steps to ensure safety for everyone.”

On the portion of their sign that says: “attention travelers/visitors,” it states the visitors can only order online using a menu point application and make payments through Venmo.

The sign also states visitors must “wait in their vehicle until the order is complete, and a text will be sent to them when their order is ready to pick up.”

In another portion of the sign, “seating is CLOSED to visitors (non-residents), and picnic tables are reserved for Kaua’i residents only (we may ask for your ID to confirm).”

The Facebook announcement has generated a total of 69 user comments by mid-day Monday, and some claim there are certain comments on the post that were deleted, these allegations could not be confirmed.

One user applauded the decision of the establishment stating the decision was a “super-smart tactic! Looks like you’re already turning away the selfish, self-righteous people so local Ohana can eat safety, and the respectful, considerate visitors can still enjoy your ono food.”

Other Facebook users thought the move was discriminatory.

“How classist and discriminatory of you. This is so illegal. Glad I have never eaten here, and I know I will NEVER eat here. Also, your poor grammar alone is enough to turn me away from your business.”

Another supported Saenz’s stance.

“Saenz has the right idea,” the user stated on Facebook. “Thanks for having the CLASS to pull it off. See you soon for some great food and Aloha. Tourists. GO HOME…STAY HOME. PERIOD.”

The Kaua’i Chamber of Commerce couldn’t be reached for comment as of press time.

27 Comments
  1. Sues October 20, 2020 5:58 am Reply

    Lolo Saenz. As a public business it is against the law to discriminate. Good luck with your Covid Business plan, if you really want to be safe have ALL customers do pick up only. COVID does not discriminate who it infects and neither should you. We are all in this together. Mahalo Nui Loa


  2. Petrina Blakely October 20, 2020 6:06 am Reply

    I applaud Juan’s efforts to keep his family and North Shore resident’s safe


    1. Reality Bites October 22, 2020 1:39 am Reply

      Yea……. you don’t get it. All tourists are tested for negative COVID results before coming to the island. Meanwhile, residents, not tested, are awarded service at the food truck. There is no standardization during this Scamdemic.


  3. Cindy Hernandez October 20, 2020 7:33 am Reply

    I am from Colorado an Love To visit Kauai, I Agree with Juan Saenz I would Never put locals Danger, Stand Your Ground.


  4. kauaiboy October 20, 2020 8:31 am Reply

    It is my understanding that the Bistro in Kilauea has posted a sign telling visitors they are not welcome unless they have completed a 14 day quarantine. I am not entirely sure how I feel about these policies. Weird times, for sure…


  5. JKH October 20, 2020 8:58 am Reply

    For all of those shaming or criticizing this business, let’s see you open up a business here on Kauai and then you can run it the way you want. Until then, you should not speak. You should be thankful to have an option. I would bet my life those criticizing have never owed or run a business. Mahalo Saenz Ohana.


  6. commonsense October 20, 2020 9:07 am Reply

    “Saenz has the right idea,” the user stated on Facebook. “Thanks for having the CLASS to pull it off. See you soon for some great food and Aloha. Tourists. GO HOME…STAY HOME. PERIOD.” It is this type of comment and mentality that is the poison on Kaua’i. While all of us reap the benefits of not having thousands of tourists on our island (less traffic, uncrowded beaches and stores, cleaner ocean, etc.) without tourism, thousands of our residents will be out of business, making no money and struggling to survive. Is that alright in your eyes just because tourism is not your livelihood? Please understand that without tourism, Kaua’i would lose all of its’ character and heart and become another playground for the wealthy.

    How would this person and others with the same attitude feel if their income was taken away? No trust funds, no stock market, no flipping real estate, excessively high taxes on their business, no funds arriving from off island investments, etc. Please open your mind and heart and see that this ‘No Tourists’ attitude is a cancer. That is the epitome of showing No Aloha.


  7. The Elite Have Spoken October 20, 2020 9:37 am Reply

    “Tourists. GO HOME…STAY HOME. PERIOD” -that about sums up the sentiment of Kauai’s North Shore Elite.
    Never mind the thousands of us who actually enjoy visitors and the business they provide (nearly all of them are kind and show more Aloha than the whining transplants who first came here …as tourists).
    Unlike the rich elite who are happy to keep the island closed.

    where did so much hate and xenophobia come from? what ever happened to tolerance and understanding? why do Kauai’s North Shore Elite hate their friends, neighbors, and visitors so much?

    Where is the Aloha?


    1. Reality Bites October 22, 2020 1:51 am Reply

      Where is the Aloha? The niceties and smiles only apply Tourists when they are shoveling out cash to locals. All other times, most on this island, can’t stand the tourists and go out of their way to chastise them like little children…..the hate remains.


  8. Kauaidoug October 20, 2020 9:58 am Reply

    The owner has every right to serve his customers in the safest fashion possible. If the local government can’t do everything possible, like a mandatory second test at the airport, then we have to do what we can on our own. More power to Mr Saenz and good for him standing up for his health. I will be sure to stop and eat at Ohana Breakfast. He appears to be doing the best he can to assure safe service for all. More power to him and others facing the dilemma of wanting to do business in as safe a manner as possible when the county has not.


    1. Reality Bites October 22, 2020 1:56 am Reply

      Yes, you are correct. Only residents have a magic COVID force field around them, which protects everyone around them from catching the Scamdemic virus. How many residents are taking voluntary ……..wait for the favorite local word……………FREE!……………….on the island and then staying in their home for 14 days if positive?? FFS!


      1. Reality Bites October 22, 2020 1:57 am Reply

        “FREE COVID tests”


  9. P Micheal Long October 20, 2020 12:39 pm Reply

    Yet another example of the aloha spirit. Manifested itself July 2019. People trying to block road to Haena after flood repair. This whole us vs them thing seems to be pervasive. I refuse to be yet another “I have been coming to Kauai since….” So I look forward to eating and hopefully not sneezing on owner. I might spend time on mainland but I have Hawaiian drivers license and truck with local plates. I think I ask other members of Princevile neighborhood association, of which been owner and member for 30 years, why we allowing food trucks anyway. Darn I mentioned how long.


  10. JefferyDoran October 20, 2020 12:45 pm Reply

    I also applaud the Saenz Ohana for their Akamai decision to help protect the residents of Kauai by social distancing the visitors during this pandemic. I have worked in the hospitality industry on the N Shore for the past 35 years and the overwhelming majority of visitors to this Hawaiian Island are wonderful and respectful people who would have No problem with this. Unfortunately
    as we all know, we do have visitors who show little or no regard for the people and Aina of Kauai. Whether it’s not yielding to oncoming traffic on the single lane bridges, hiking the Kalalau trail when it’s closed due to flash flooding or sneaking around the fence at Queens Bath during High Surf etc. These are the people who are going to complain about this and we can live without them just fine! Mahalo Juan Saenz for your Love and Aloha for the people of Kauai!


  11. RPC October 20, 2020 1:08 pm Reply

    Sounds very discriminatory. How do they screen out residents who travelled recently?


  12. Hieronymus October 20, 2020 2:56 pm Reply

    It’s his business to run the way he wants. It’s my choice not to spend my money at his establishment. I don’t see why people get upset over people exercising their freedoms.


    1. Reality Bites October 22, 2020 2:03 am Reply

      Your choice, his business. Sadly, you know, in 2020, that is called discrimination, based solely on not having a Hawaii Resident ID card. You, ah, think that would fly any where else in the USA?? SMH.


  13. truth808 October 20, 2020 3:43 pm Reply

    Covid is now a convenient platform for many to use as a way to further show their hatred towards mainland haoles. But, the truth is that you can’t sustain your business without the visitors. Period.


  14. Kyle October 20, 2020 4:33 pm Reply

    It is legal to create certain restrictive policies within a privately owned business (shirt, shoes, mask). “No Tourists Allowed” is probably also legal (though it’s a lousy business plan!). The legal question is probably already addressed in the local business code. Common sense says island visitors should stay away from frightened local residents for a few more months. There are many excellent restaurants in the resorts and hotels who are pleading for visitors’ business and will treat you as a welcomed guest.


  15. Doug October 20, 2020 7:03 pm Reply

    Good for him, since Ige would not open us safely it fell upon the individual businesses to ensure our safety. And this is not discrimination, this is running his business according to covid guidelines to keep everyone who is not infected safe. Mahalo Lolo Saenz!!!!!!


    1. Dude October 20, 2020 10:14 pm Reply

      C’mon man!? It’s not the government’s responsibility to keep YOU safe. Take some responsibility for yourself.


    2. Reality Bites October 22, 2020 2:05 am Reply

      You sound like one of the crazy cat ladies on this island. Um, tell me where it is written anywhere……anywhere……that businesses in Hawaii are authorized to not served those without a Hawaii Resident ID. I’ll hold my breath while you dig it up. Stop the madness!


  16. commonsense October 20, 2020 8:46 pm Reply

    I will choose not to visit this establishment due to its’ unfair, discriminatory practices. So much for Aloha. If they planned better and had proper safety practices in place, they wouldn’t have to discriminate between visitors and locals. I’ll bet that some of these ‘locals’ they service have recently traveled or have been here less than a year.


  17. RevW October 20, 2020 10:48 pm Reply

    No, you can not run your business however you feel like. Back in the USA, which Kauaii was part of last time I checked, discrimination based on where you’re from is illegal. Requiring ID to prove you aren’t part of an unwelcome or ‘untouchable’ class is illegal unless residency is required for something the government controls like drivers licenses. Food trucks are considered to be ‘take out’ whether they have tables outdoors or not; you can’t allow a preferred group to use those outdoor tables and tell whoever you feel like to go somewhere else … somewhere like the seats in the back of the bus, the “No Women Allowed” drinking establishments of the last century, “back where you came from” &s/o. It would not be *discrimination* if everyone had to call in their order, or ,order on site, wait in their car and pick up when ready to take somewhere else.


  18. tonyc October 21, 2020 2:17 am Reply

    Reading these comments makes my stomach hurt. I’ll say it. I don’t care. I came over there in 1999 and was tricked into buying a timeshare on the south end. I have been coming there every year since. Enough that the people at the golf course know my wife and I by name. I have seen a lot of changes with the increasing tourism. I understand how you feel with all the people around. I am a local at my hometown too. I have lived about 40 miles south of Seattle for 65 years. It has gotten crazy here too. What use to take me 5 minutes to get some where now takes up to a half an hour. Where did all theses people come from? Anyway, it feels like the general opinion of the locals is that we are all disease ridden people coming over there to infect everyone. We have rules in place here to keep us safe, and myself and the other older people I know have been following them. I have not been around anyone sick. I am worried about flying over there so I probably won’t come over there this year. I keep hearing about this “Aloha Spirit”. I haven’t felt it for years. When I come over there I don’t leave the south end, and just support the local Koloa business. I remember seeing spray painted on the side of the bathrooms “Howly go home” at Poipu Beach. It made me pretty uncomfortable just to go to the beach. So I don’t. I’m just a working guy who likes to go on vacation and play golf in the sunshine. But if you don’t want me there I can take my money to Florida. You win.


    1. Reality Bites October 22, 2020 2:10 am Reply

      Hit any of the thousands of islands in the Caribbean. Cheaper and the people are much nicer and don’t have a chip on their shoulder. Weather is the same, but no surf. Sounds like you would not be surfing anyway.


  19. Ohana2020 October 21, 2020 5:28 pm Reply

    I hope the Federal Law created to provide ALL persons equal rights and free from discrimination helps all those that think what Saenz is doing is his right as a business owner. Legally, it is only his right if he closes his doors and makes his restaurant a private club “for Locals Only”. That is a win win and does not tear apart Aloha Spirit in the name of Covid.

    42 U.S. Code § 2000a.Prohibition against discrimination or segregation in places of public accommodation
    (a)Equal access
    All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.
    (2)
    any restaurant, cafeteria, lunchroom, lunch counter, soda fountain, or other facility principally engaged in selling food for consumption on the premises, including, but not limited to, any such facility located on the premises of any retail establishment; or any gasoline station;
    (e)Private establishments
    The provisions of this subchapter shall not apply to a private club or other establishment not in fact open to the public, except to the extent that the facilities of such establishment are made available to the customers or patrons of an establishment within the scope of subsection (b).


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