Major island restaurants are closing their doors

Others going takeout; senior hours offered at some stores

The seating area of McDonald’s in Wailuku is closed off with caution tape Wednesday morning, in keeping with other McDonald’s restaurants across the country. The self-serve beverage area also was closed off, while the inside ordering counter and drive-thru window remained open. The Maui News / LILA FUJIMOTO photo

Maui’s longtime restaurants, like Mama’s Fish House and Haliimaile General Store, temporarily are closing their doors in the wake of Gov. David Ige’s call for bars and clubs to close and for restaurants to focus on takeout and the Health Department’s directive to reduce large congregations of people due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, supermarkets and other retailers are setting aside business hours for senior citizens, who are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.

Foodland is reserving the first hour of business on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for those 60 years and older. Markets open at either 5 or 6 a.m. The service begins today and runs through March 31.

“We know that many of our seniors are concerned about their health and safety during this current crisis, and we want to provide them an opportunity to shop with us in a less-crowded environment,” said Jenai S. Wall, Foodland chairman and CEO.

Other stores setting aside time for kupuna include Walmart, 6 to 7 a.m. Tuesdays through April 28, and Target, the first hour from 7 to 8 a.m. Wednesdays. Walmart and Target also are closing earlier at 8:30 p.m. and 9 p.m., respectively.

Surf Club in Paia posted an announcement outlining its reason for a temporary two-week closure. Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice had a similar notice, as well as nearby clothing stores. The Maui News / DAKOTA GROSSMAN photo

Award-winning restaurants are shuttering their doors for now.

Haliimaile General Store changed its dining hours Monday and offered curbside pick-up for takeout, but by Wednesday chef Bev Gannon decided to close the restaurant and Gannon’s Restaurant and Celebration Catering.

“This is World War III, but instead of it being at war against countries, we are at war with a virus,” Gannon said Wednesday. “Our industry has taken multiple direct hits from this enemy.”

Gannon said she had no choice but to lay off employees because as a small business, “we do not have the funds to pay for everyone while we are closed and be able to reopen.”

Gannon plans to reopen Haliimaile General Store when the dust clears, but for now, she anticipates millions of dollars in revenue loss.

Charley’s Restaurant & Saloon sits quietly Wednesday after the owner closed its doors Tuesday in response to the COVID-19 virus outbreak. The Maui News / DAKOTA GROSSMAN photo

“There is no way to plan for what is happening,” she said. “My business has survived at least three other major crises. We will try the best we can to survive this one.”

Iconic Charley’s Restaurant & Saloon, which was established in 1969 in the heart of historic Paia town, officially closed at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

“I don’t want to put our employees at risk and potentially take any illness back to their families,” owner Jonathan Herman said in a phone interview. “I think it’s the right thing to do.

“Everybody had the same reaction; they’re supportive but scared. I think some were relieved that they don’t have to come in to work, but they’re fearful about income.”

Herman, who has owned Charley’s for almost nine years, said he will reevaluate the business situation in two weeks, but for now the restaurant is closed. He noted that he made the decision before Ige’s announcement Tuesday.

Mama’s Fish House Restaurant announced Wednesday that it will be closing its doors indefinitely today in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Employees were notified via group text.

Hours were shortened and reservations were adjusted for Mama’s final day. Up until its closure, a few servers mentioned that business still was relatively good for the five-star seafood restaurant.

Chef Mark Ellman’s Honu Seafood and Frida’s Mexican Beach House in Lahaina also have closed, according to a public announcement addressed to Mayor Michael Victorino.

“I wanted to let you know that I have made a very difficult decision to close both my restaurants after dinner service tonight,” Ellman wrote Tuesday. “My family and I believe that to do our part to flatten the virus curve is more important than anything and not to endanger our (140) employees with getting sick.”

Ellman said that the plan is to reopen, but in the meantime, they will try to focus on takeout services.

“We are extremely sad we are putting our employees in financial crisis. We do not want our kupuna to get sick,” he said. “It is the right thing to do.”

McDonald’s and Zippy’s are among the eateries going to takeout only. McDonald’s has closed all restaurant seating areas, play areas, self-service beverage bars and kiosks. Customers can still get their Big Macs by takeout or drive-thru.

Zippy’s Restaurants announced the closure of its dine-in restaurants. But starting 10:30 a.m. today, Zippy’s fast food takeout counters will serve a limited menu that will include most of the signature meals.

Zippy’s will be emphasizing online and mobile ordering.

“We support flattening the curve of COVID-19. With over 2,000 employees and 24 locations, there are many challenges to modifying operations at our scale,” said FCH Enterprises Inc. President Paul Yokota in a news release Tuesday evening. “We know many customers who eat all three of their meals at Zippy’s daily, so we take our responsibility to feeding Hawaii seriously.

“We also want to provide our staff with a safe place to work.”

Another major closure announced Wednesday was the Maui Ocean Center. The Maalaea aquarium will remain closed into the end of May.

“Our care goes beyond just marine life. It extends to our team members and you, our guests, as we strive to malama kekahi i kekahi, to take care of each other. The safety of our community and marine life has been and always will be our top priority,” the center announcement said.

Macy’s, with stores at the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center and the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa announced closure of all of its outlets Tuesday through March 31.

Costco remains open but has been limiting the number of people in its Kahului store since Tuesday, part of a national policy by the retail chain, said Tony Facemire, general manager. The store, which can hold 2,800 people according to the fire code, lets in the first 300 people, then 25 to 50 every 10 minutes thereafter.

The goal is to create some social distancing, he said.

That is leaving hundreds of people outside waiting to get in, Facemire said Wednesday. Those waiting in line have been cordial, polite and understanding.

“Our members have been great during this time,” he said.

There is no end date to this access restriction.

“This whole coronavirus thing is so tough because we don’t know when it is going to end,” he said.

With a hurricane, there is an end once it passes by. Not so with the coronavirus, which is “wearing on everyone in the community,” Facemire said. The impacts of COVID-19 are making it difficult on small businesses and workers in the community.

Facemire wanted to tamp down rumors that Costco is going to close its store and gas station or restrict hours. These rumors are not true, he said.

While there remain shortages of toilet paper and hand sanitizers currently, Facemire said the supply chain is working well, with barges unloading on Tuesdays and Fridays.

“Currently, demand is higher than supply chain,” he said.

* Staff Writer Lee Imada contributed to this report. Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.