Kau Kau Kailua returns; Celebration of Kailua Village cuisine to last three months

  • TOM LINDER/West Hawaii Today Patrons enjoy a sunset with their dinner at Kona Inn.

  • TOM LINDER/West Hawaii Today Foster’s Kitchen on Alii Drive is one of more than 90 eateries in Kailua Village participating in Kau Kau Kailua.

Let’s eat, Kailua. Kau Kau Kailua is back.

For the 11th year, the annual celebration of Kailua Village’s local restaurants started Sept. 1 and, for the first time, will last for three months, extending through November.

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“We’re trying a longer promotional period to really help our restaurants; a lot of them (are) really struggling, hanging on by a thread,” said executive director of the Kailua Village Business Improvement District Debbie Baker. “We had hoped that the economy would begin to recover, but with the surge in cases and the lengthening of the quarantine period, that’s not happening. We’re really going to depend on kamaaina to come forward and help save our local restaurants.”

With a stated mission to make Kailua Village a better place to invest, work, live and play, the Kailua Village Business Improvement District, a collaboration between businesses, government and area residents, features more than 90 eateries within its borders, spanning from Makala Boulevard in the Old Industrial Area to Honl’s Beach, a mile south of Kailua Pier.

Recognizing the stress many restaurants are under with current business conditions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kailua Village Business Improvement District, an organization funded by fees through businesses’ property taxes, is hoping the increased promotion to local residents can make the difference to keep Kailua’s restaurants going.

“In years past, (restaurants) could depend on tourism and visitors to be their mainstay; this year, that’s not possible,” Baker said. “They really have to depend on local people to come out and support. I think that’s the biggest difference.”

The three-month celebration will feature promotions throughout the community to highlight the range of restaurants Kailua has to offer. For some restaurants, however, the promotions are arriving too late.

Though the Kailua Village Business Improvement District is remaining optimistic, worry among some restaurant owners in the current climate persists. A number of eateries in Kailua Village shut their doors, either temporarily or permanently, and more are concerned as the pandemic continues.

“In past years, Kau Kau Kailua has had very positive impact on my two restaurants,” said Bob Mardian, owner of Kona Inn and Kona Canoe Club, both of which temporarily closed after Labor Day. “Under the circumstances, I’m not sure KVBID has been able to benefit the local restaurants.”

Despite the concerns, hope remains that Kau Kau Kailua can help these restaurants hang on until tourism returns.

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“We’re really trying to encourage people to remember, if they can, to support local restaurants,” Baker said. “I know a lot of people are not employed right now and might not have discretionary income, but if they can, please help.”

Email Tom Linder at tlinder@westhawaiitoday.com.

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