Longhi’s Wailea getting ready to reopen Friday

Restaurant seeks to hire more staff

Longhi’s Wailea is pictured prior to the pandemic. The Italian seafood restaurant at The Shops at Wailea is reopening Friday and is seeking to hire more front and back of house staff. Owner Peter Longhi said that once the dining room is rearranged to meet social distancing requirements, the restaurant will likely be able to hold about 65 inside and 60 outside. Photo courtesy of Longhi’s Wailea

Longhi’s Wailea will reopen Friday following six months of closure, with plans to hire more front and back of house staff.

“With (Oct. 15) coming up, and it looks like they’re going to be opening with the proper testing, there’s a little light at the end of the tunnel,” owner Peter Longhi said Sunday as he and his staff were preparing the restaurant and going through inventory. “I decided to go for it.”

Located at The Shops of Wailea, the Italian seafood restaurant will serve dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday before launching breakfast, lunch and dinner on Saturday.

Longhi’s closed March 21, shortly before nonessential businesses began shutting down around Maui County and the state imposed a 14-day quarantine on arriving travelers. The restaurant had to let go all of its nearly 60 employees.

“We covered health insurance through April for everybody, figuring it was maybe a month, maybe five weeks, and we’d be back up and rolling,” Longhi said.

But as the weeks dragged on, it was clear the effects of the pandemic would last much longer than that. Longhi’s tried offering takeout for a couple of days but only brought in a few hundred dollars a day, which “wasn’t sustainable.”

Even after some restaurants began resuming limited dine-in services, reopening didn’t make sense for Longhi’s, which wouldn’t have enough business with the tourism market gone. Plus, some employees were making more a week on state unemployment benefits and the $600 federal plus-up than they would back in the Longhi’s kitchen.

“We paid our bills through March and that was that, and then we held on,” Longhi said. “Turned off the electricity, turned off the gas, cleaned the place up. But it was just wait and see.”

While the state has repeatedly pushed back its plans to launch a pre-travel testing program in the face of mounting COVID-19 cases, Longhi’s and other businesses feel that the state is serious about moving forward with the program on Oct. 15.

Longhi said he is looking for staffing for both the front and back of house. The restaurant has about 35 on right now and if business improves, they could use more cooks, bartenders, waiters, bussers and possibly another manager. He said they plan to start interviewing next week and add on more people as needed.

“I don’t know if we’ll get back up to 60 to 70 people right away, but we’re certainly looking for talent,” he said.

Those who are interested in applying for work should email emily@longhis.com with their contact information. They can also call the restaurant at 891-8883 starting Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Longhi said that the restaurant, which prior to the pandemic had an interior capacity of 185, removed several tables to accommodate fewer guests and allow for social distancing. Half of the establishment is already open air, and Longhi said the space can likely fit 65 inside and about 60 outside.

After opening for dinner on Friday, the restaurant will begin operating seven days a week, serving breakfast from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., lunch from 11:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. and dinner from 5 to 10 p.m.

Longhi said the menu will be smaller but still similar to what it offered before — four or five rotating pasta dishes, one fresh fish selection a day as opposed to two or three and one rotating steak option. Breakfast will still have the usual eggs benedict, omelettes, pancakes, cinnamon rolls and breads fresh-baked in house.

Longhi’s, which was founded on Maui by Peter Longhi’s father Bob in 1976, also has a location on Oahu, which is expected to reopen once the Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club starts operating again. The original Longhi’s on Front Street in Lahaina closed in March 2019 after 43 years in business.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.


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