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Hawaiiana Hotel on Waikiki's Beach Walk May be Shutting Down

By Robbie Dingeman, The Honolulu AdvertiserMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

November 4, 2009 -- Employees of the low-rise Hawaiiana Hotel on Waikiki's Beach Walk are telling guests that the 54-year-old property is being shut down as a hotel in the wake of two of three property owners facing financial troubles.

Honolulu developer and property manager Peter Savio said he heard that the hotel operation, in existence since 1955, is being phased out this week.

Employees at the hotel yesterday declined to comment on the closing but told some guests that they would need to pay about $45 more each day and told others that they'd have to leave the hotel later this week. The hotel charges $125 to $215 a night, according to its Web site.

Savio said he believes the land lease rose significantly about five years ago. Then tourism slumped, leaving the landowners with higher costs and lower revenue. "I believe the company actually went bankrupt," he said.

Among those disappointed by the action is Richard Berryessa -- a retired teacher from San Jose, Calif. -- who is here with his wife, celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary.

[0x14]They like the low-key, old-fashioned garden atmosphere of the hotel, and that's why they've come back every year for the past decade.

"The people here are fantastic," Berryessa said. While he blames the property owners for creating "havoc," he said the staff remains excellent.

The Berryessas arrived on Sunday and had paid in advance for this year and the next two vacations. Richard Berryessa said they felt comfortable paying $1,800 in advance for three years because they had bought a five-year pre-paid plan earlier that had been a good deal and trusted this would be as well.

He said he and his wife have returned to the Islands about once a year ever since their honeymoon here.

Savio is managing dorm rentals at part of the Hawaiiana, but said he has learned that some guests at the old-fashioned low-rise hotel this week are being told that they'll have to pay more and those with future reservations are being told the hotel is closing.

The owner could not be reached for comment yesterday. An employee said she was taking messages for the manager about the closing of the hotel, but no one called back to explain the next steps for guests or the hotel company.

Longtime guests said they began worrying earlier this week when employees took down the hotel sign, removed boxes of documents and told them they'd have to pay more to remain.

For many of the guests, the Hawaiiana is a home away from home, a small green, somewhat antiquated but affordable, oasis in Waikiki.

When guests gather around the pool, they often are chatting with the same friends they've seen each year for decades.

Ralph and Corky Reichmann fly in from Fairbanks, Alaska, each year in November. "It's our second home. We all know each other."

He knows he'll meet up with Cy Pollock, who arrives from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and usually spends three weeks at a time.

Reichmann said his youngest son was born in Hawaii while the family stayed at the hotel. And he proudly shows a photo of his father and two of his children standing near the pool in 1955. He said he knows of at least two guests who had their ashes scattered on the grounds.

"We meet all these people, and the staff look after us," Pollock said. "It's a reunion every year."

Nancy and Bob Walsh fly in from their home in Squamish, British Columbia. If the Hawaiiana does close, they'll be disappointed. But just in case, they're checking out another nearby low-rise for future trips.

The new charges and rumors of closing have the guests who have paid for future stays wondering if they would have any legal recourse if the hotel does close.

"We're stuck with what we've invested before," Pollock said. But they know that it's cheaper to pay a little more at their old favorite than to move to a new hotel.

Savio said he'll put up any existing guests at cost to be a good neighbor but will have to ask for some money to cover his expenses.

One of the three landowners sold the building, and the person who bought it plans to close the hotel, Savio said. "It was a foreclosure on the land lease."

Savio said he would take over and manage the property if something could be worked out.

Reach Robbie Dingeman at rdingeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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To see more of The Honolulu Advertiser or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.honoluluadvertiser.com.

Copyright (c) 2009, The Honolulu Advertiser

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