PO‘IPU — The Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort &Spa will be closing temporarily on Dec. 7 in a move to further protect its staff.
Tina Malabe, a 30-year employee at the front desk, said it’s bittersweet to close after a month, but that it’s “best for the health of the community, but it still feels sad.”
“I teared up yesterday when a repeat guest said that they were so sorry that we were shutting down,” Malabe said. “We’ve been busy wrapping things up to close but when they said that, it really hit me and I realized how sad I was about closing again. They wanted to come around the plexiglass to give me a hug when he saw my tears but we just can’t now.”
General Manager Dan King was notably somber with his statement.
“It was so exciting to reopen in November and have our team back,” King said. “It was great to welcome guests and see residents come for staycations as well as sushi at Stevenson’s and dinners at Tidepools.”
The average length of a guest’s stay was between four and five days, King said.
“Being quarantined to their room would not work for them,” he said.
Resort staff said it was nice to be open, but its still unclear when the hotel will reopen, but Diann Hartman, director of marketing communications, said staff is looking into it.
“We will be re-looking at situation reopening at the end of the year, and go from there,” Hartman said.
Hartman said the temporary cease of operation has affected so many employees, yet there will be staff to take care of the property, the same staff that has been working through the pandemic.
Small businesses, like Emperor’s Emporium in Old Koloa Town, are being affected, too, by the county enforcing the 14-day quarantine rule to travelers which went into effect on Dec. 2.
Emperor’s Emporium’s owner Jerry Vigil, 79, doesn’t agree with the county’s rule.
“I don’t know if it was a good solution, it was more of a knee jerk move, because I got to do something,” Vigil said. “It seems (Mayor Derek Kawakami) has a lot of supporters, of course they are going to support the 14-day quarantine. They are right, if we are able to limit the number of people coming in then we are going to limit the number of people who are going to get COVID-19. That’s in a perfect world, but we don’t live in a perfect world.”
Vigil has been working every day at his shop for the past 30 years selling Hawaiian-made products to tourists and says, fortunately, he has it better than most. However, on his block, he seen four businesses close down for good since the pandemic started.
“They will not be coming back, so that’s close to 25%. Each one of those people is a story, they suffered in their own way, so when the mayor is so magnanimous when he says, ‘I am going to take care of you, I am going to close you down, I am going to support you by making sure that nobody is going to come to Kaua‘i,’” Vigil said. “Nobody is going to visit Kaua‘i just to quarantine for 14 days.”
He continued: “I am at an advantage because I am getting social security, and that is how I survived. Now during the times when I was coming in, when the tourist was not allowed to come in, I was doing $50-100 a day. You can’t support a store like ours on that kind of revenue. I normally, during a regular-season it takes about $1,500 a day just to break even.”
Vigil points out the changes he made during the pandemic, and said his overhead cost is minimal compared to other stores on his strip.
“But if I am the only one working and I have no employees, and no taxes, GE taxes are so minimal, so the only thing I have to pay for is are things like electricity, air conditioning, some other things, very very minimal overhead,” Vigil said. “And I don’t stay open, like I normally would have, coming in at 10 a.m. and staying until 6 p.m.”
When the state reopened on the Safe Travels program on Oct. 15, Vigil said he made $300-$800 dollars a day.
“We can survive on that,” Vigil said. “Even when the doors are not completely opened, and we don’t have the same numbers of tourists we had last year, we can actually survive on that, and I think most places could. But when you completely shut us down, we are completely out of business and there is no way for us to survive.”
Vigil is hoping the county is able to reconsider the two-week quarantine. Mayor Derek Kawakami has stated before he would prefer a mandatory three-day quarantine and second test to the full 14-day quarantine.
“When we are in lockdown again, I go back to those people in the county building and the mayor are isolated,” Vigil said. “They are receiving full paycheck, and they do overtime because they have to do a lot of stuff, and meanwhile the rest of us are suffering and I don’t think that they have any way of recognizing the kind of hurt that is in the community. I don’t think they can other than they want to keep us safe. I don’t know if there is a perfect way to keep everybody safe.”
Vigil also mentioned that the only way he was able to survive this long was because of his property managers.
“The only way we have been able to survive, was because our property managers from Old Koloa Town have been supporting us by reducing our rent,” Vigil said. “You know, I cannot even tell you. They are the only reason, that we survive. I now owe close to $80,000 in back rent, yet they allowed me to pay a percentage rent during those times where we only make $500 a month. They allowed me to turn in a rent payment of $50 at one point.”