Hale Kealoha Restaurant Closed
Hale Kealoha, the restaurant and bar at Hotel Molokai, closed permanently on Feb. 28. Owner Tammy Smith said the closure is the result of a business decision between Hale Kealoha and Hotel Molokai and its management, Beachtree Properties. Hale Kealoha leased the bar and restaurant space, and Smith said though she had no intention to close her business, the change was initiated by the landlord.
“We came, we tried, we did our best, we impacted a lot of lives,” said Smith, who also owns a restaurant by the same name on Oahu. “We had a lot of people who liked what we did, we had some people who didn’t. We supported the economy here, we did a lot of local buying.”
The business employed 38 residents, and Smith added the impact of the closure on 38 families is significant.
Though false information has circulated about other reasons for closure, Smith said none of those are true. Molokai Police confirmed there was no drug bust at the location, as one rumor suggested. Smith said the rumors have been “hurtful,” to her and her family on Molokai, as well as her employees and management, who she described as “good workers.”
“I worry for our employees, for the people who played music… for the people who depended on our business for their business,” she said of the closure, becoming emotional. “It’s not about blaming anybody… it was a business decision.”
Smith said she was given little notice of the decision to end her lease. Michael Drew, general manager of Hotel Molokai, did not return requests for comment.
Smith said she traveled between Oahu and Molokai, also managing her business on Oahu. Though it was difficult at times, she said she “had a great year and a half” at the Molokai restaurant.
Hale Kealoha opened at Hotel Molokai in October 2015 and offered an upscale breakfast, lunch and dinner menu featuring local ingredients, fresh seafood, and a variety of classic and unique dishes.
Before Smith had taken over the restaurant, Tante’s Island Cuisine, a family-operated restaurant on Maui, had operated there for about five months in 2014. After a fire destroyed Hotel Molokai’s kitchen in 2012, Tante’s ran the bar and a small barside grill menu while the kitchen was under reconstruction. However, at the end of 2014, they announced the deal was off in “a mutual agreement” with Hotel Molokai.
For anyone who may take over the restaurant in the future, Smith had some advice.
“We need Molokai for support,” she said. “We’re all tourist driven but this isn’t the place just for tourists, this is a place for Molokai.”