KAPA‘A — Last week, more than 50 frustrated business owners gathered at the Olympic Cafe in Kapa‘a to discuss ways to keep their businesses open.
All were invited to another gathering, set for today at 3 p.m. at Vidinha Stadium.
The idea to bring together Kaua‘i’s small-business community started with a few residents, including Olympic Cafe Owner Troy Trujillo.
“Randy Boyer mentioned to me on Tuesday that we should get some business owners together and talk about solutions to the lockdown that’s hurting so many and that has put others out of business already,” Trujillo said. “I called a dozen or more business and restaurant owners I know — Bubba, Kristal and Mike. Then it blew up from there.”
Trujillo said he and other business owners understand that a lot of people are nervous about the virus, but he believes more are hurting financially.
“We need to open Kaua‘i up safely, and soon. We want to hear a plan from the mayor,” Trujillo said. “Doing nothing is not working.”
At the meeting, Noka Fair Owner Jimmy Jasper said his business is also struggling.
“We are done,” Jasper said. “We grew up here, this is our childhood playground, and we can’t survive without the tourism.”
Kauai Juice Company Owner Kristal Muhich said she and other business owners hope to have a few meetings on the topic, with the goal of creating a safe and effective list of suggestions on opening up the island for Mayor Derek Kawakami.
“It’s really important that we started the dialogue now,” Muhich said. “What we want to do is hear from all business owners. What challenges are you facing?”
At Olympic Cafe, each business owner shared their thoughts on the new bills being discussed on the county and state level regarding the Safe Travels program. Also at the meeting was Councilmember and former Mayor Bernard Carvalho, who said leaders need to find a way to be more responsive with information to prevent confusion and misunderstandings.
“I think the biggest issue is not getting information back (to business owners),” Carvalho said. “How can we really get back the information in a timely manner? I feel that we need to find a way (to) keep our community informed, which the businesses are doing right now.”
Helping organize the meeting was Dr. Addison Bulosan, vice president of Lihu‘e Business Association.
“It is clear that many local small businesses are on the brink of closing for good, and we need as much community support for these businesses,” Bulosan said.
“These are the businesses that employ local families, donate to community fundraisers and provided sustenance for our island. All creative solutions are welcomed, and we hope by working together we can save our local businesses.”
Kawakami wasn’t at the meeting, but said he understands Kaua‘i’s residents are undergoing difficulties, emphasizing there is “no silver bullet” that will quickly solve all of the problems.
“I know our small and large businesses are hurting, and their pain is real,” Kawakami said.
“We are and will continue to do our best to find additional paths that allow our rural community to safely add more economic activity in areas like tourism. In the meantime, our low case counts have allowed us to focus on vaccine rollout, and the CDC’s new quarantine guidance regarding vaccinations confirms we are on the right track by concentrating on this tool to help rebuild the economy.”