LIHU‘E — Over 200 business owners across the island assembled at Vidinha Stadium’s parking lot on Wednesday to organize their concerns and find a way to send them to the county and state officials in hopes of opening tourism on Kaua‘i.
It’s the second time the group has gathered; the first was last Friday at Olympic Cafe which attracted a smaller crowd.
After a pule and pledging to the United States flag, Cynthia Keener shared the struggles she and her husband Lance Keener have faced with their business, Ohana Fishing Charters.
“Just like many in the business community, we had a thriving growing business before COVID,” Keener said. “As a result of these policies, we have almost lost 100% of our revenue and acquired mountains of debt from government loans just to hang on.
“But (there is) no transparency from the county council (or) mayor’s office. We are left in the dark not knowing a plan for reopening. Meanwhile, having to borrow from our equity in our home just to keep paying the bills.”
Keener has a message for all elected officials on behalf of those that attended the meeting and those that lost their business during COVID-19.
“If your plan is not to reopen, boy, you need to tell us now and be transparent,” Keener said. “Our families are being greatly affected by these current policies. We need to know so that we can plan accordingly to get on with our lives and stop pouring money into businesses that may never return.”
Keener said public servants voted in by residents should be concerned about all and listen to all the people and she encouraged the county council to act now.
Councilmember Bernard Carvalho was one of two councilmembers at Wednesday’s gathering. Also present was Councilmember Felicia Cowden.
“The businesses are hurting I’m with you at that, for sure,” Carvalho said. “And I want to tell you since the last meeting, that we did speak with the mayor. The administration knows. They have a plan (and) It’s coming.”
Carvalho didn’t give details on a timeline for when that plan would be revealed.
Another business owner David Stewart from the North Shore said he has much respect for Mayor Derek Kawakami, but wishes the Mayor’s Administration would be more transparent with their plans or the Kauai economy.
Stewart owns a landscaping business he and his wife intend to pass onto their children.
“We have a landscaping business still going good-paying the bills, (but) very little profit. I can give that to my children,” Stewart said. “Keep me alive, (don’t) kill my dream. Don’t kill that.”
Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce’s President Mark Perriello was at the meeting listening to business owners and conducting a new survey.
“The Kaua‘i Chamber is here today to encourage business owners to respond to a survey that we have on COVID-19 and government policies and the impact that it’s having on their business,” Perriello said. “We hope to really capture a lot of voices in that survey so that we can better advocate on their behalf with government officials. And this is a new survey. The last survey was in December 2020.”
More info kauaichamber.org.