L’Uraku owners sued by state
The state Office of Consumer Protection has filed suit against Chikara Yanagiya and World Hawaii Inc., owners and operators of the now-defunct L'Uraku restaurant, for violating the state's gift certificate law.
The suit alleges that the restaurant sold gift certificates with expiration dates of less than two years; that it sold gift certificates up to the date of its Feb. 2007 closure without disclosing its plans to close; and that it has refused to provide refunds to purchasers.
"We have made our concerns known to the company," said Stephen Levins, executive director of the Office of Consumer Protection.
"What we want, are the customers to be made whole ... thus far we haven't seen any indication on the part of the defendants to make the consumers whole."
A company that closes still has an obligation to its patrons, Levins said in a statement. "It's just not fair for a business to tell its customers who purchased gift certificates that they are out of luck. We are suing the defendants because we believe they failed to comply with Hawaii law."
Violations of the law can result in fines ranging from $500 to $10,000 per violation.
L'Uraku gift certificate purchasers who have not yet filed a claim with the Office of Consumer Protection may call 587-3222 or (800) 394-1902.
The Better Business Bureau of Hawaii Web site indicates it has processed three complaints about L'Uraku in the past 36 months, and that the company has an unsatisfactory record.
Yanagiya is the sole officer of World Hawaii as well as International Furusato Inc., according to state business registration records.
The Star-Bulletin reported first on the restaurant's apparent plans to close on Jan. 24, after finding the space advertised online as being available for immediate sublease.
Yanagiya did not return calls for the earlier story and another official with World Hawaii refused to be quoted in the newspaper. Related phone numbers have since been disconnected.
The space has since been renovated and reopened as 'Elua, operated by noted Hawaii chefs Donato Loperfido and Philippe Padovani.