‘It’s the right thing to do’: Local restaurants adjust operations amid coronavirus

  • Jaymie Wendell staffs the pick up window at Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill on Wednesday. (Photos by Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill is offering take out service only during the coronavirus pandemic.

For many West Hawaii restaurants, it was business as usual Wednesday; however some are heeding Gov. David Ige’s suggestion to switch to carry-out service amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill in Kona and Hilo has transitioned to takeout only for the safety of staff and patrons, according to owner Paul Streiter.

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“We saw what was coming so we met with all 80 of our employees over the weekend,” said Streiter. “It wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when.”

He provided his employees an information package including instructions for applying unemployment insurance should they need to close. Wednesday he needed to lay off 68 of his employees as he switched to takeout, but will continue to provide employees with health insurance through April.

“We’re going to take a hit, but it’s the right thing to do,” he said adding they are committed to staying open.

Chef Ippy Aiona has two Hawaiian Barbecue locations, in Waimea and Queens’ MarketPlace in Waikoloa Beach Resort. Both locations remain open, but have shifted to takeout only.

He said although the Waikoloa location in the food court has always been takeout, the shopping center has moved all the indoor tables outside. At his Waimea location, his staff is taking orders at the door.

“It’s a small community. We all work and play together,” he said. “We need to take care of the community and provide good home-made hot food. We want to continue to feed this town … safely.”

Aiona said he is trying to follow guidelines, but they haven’t exactly been made clear.

“I wish they would just tell us what to do,” he said of the suggestions made by government officials.

Umeke’s Fish Market Bar and Grill remains open, but owner Nakoa Pabre said they have limited seating.

“We are pushing curbside pickups and takeouts and starting Thursday will do deliveries from Lako to Kohanaiki Industrial from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5-7 p.m.,” he said, adding they are making specials high in vitamin C.

Other establishments have decided to shutter their doors completely.

Papa Kona Restaurant &Bar announced that in the interest of the safety for their staff and the community, that they would be closing for 30 days.

“It is a strange time to be living in, but we need to be community-minded and do our part to flatten the curve of COVID-19 cases on the Big Island. We were just hitting our stride with great reviews and a busy restaurant. We cannot wait to be back in business as soon as possible with our amazing staff, and will reopen on April 15, if not sooner,” said Julia Pittman, General Manager at Papa Kona Restaurant &Bar through an email.

Kona Brewing Co.’s bar and pub has also decided to close completely.

“For all of us at Kona Brewing Company, we strongly believe that aloha is a way of life. And it’s in this aloha spirit that the Kona Brewing Company was founded over 25 years ago. As we navigate this new uncharted territory we will continue to do so with aloha. In this trying time, we commit to doing our best to protect the health and safety of our island community,” they said in a statement.

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Island Breeze Productions announced luaus at the Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa at Keauhou Bay, King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel and Fairmont Orchid are canceled until further notice.

“Staying fully open seemed irresponsible and somewhat not jibing with Ige,” said Streiter. “We’ll see what happens. Every day is incredibly fluid. So be it.”

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