Hilton’s Golden Dragon restaurant closing
Move comes as surprise to union, 31 employees to be affected
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After nearly 50 years, Hilton Hawaiian Village's Golden Dragon restaurant is set to shut down on Sunday because of low demand, hotel officials said.
The closure, which came as a surprise to Unite Here Local 5, the hotel workers' union, will affect 31 employees, most of them Chinese immigrants, said Cade Watanabe, union spokesman.
The union is negotiating welfare packages, including severance and medical benefits.
Hilton said it has many available positions and hopes to train and place restaurant employees in other areas of hotel operations. But Watanabe said many Golden Dragon workers have language limitations that would hinder them in transitioning to other jobs, he said.
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The Hilton Hawaiian Village's Golden Dragon Chinese restaurant will close on Sunday after nearly 50 years in Waikiki due to waning traffic, hotel officials said.
The closure, which officials for Unite Here Local 5 said came as a surprise, will affect 31 employees, most of them Chinese immigrants.
The union is negotiating welfare packages, including severance and medical benefits, for the affected workers, some of whom have been with the restaurant for decades, said Cade Watanabe, union spokesman.
"We've seen sort of this attack on our food and beverage industry," Watanabe said. "Overall our employers in Waikiki have stated their concerns about the profitability of their food and beverage outlets."
Noel Trainor, Hilton's general manager, said that the restaurant has contended for years with low demand, and that the closure is a business-based decision. It plans to continue offering Chinese cuisine at banquet functions.
Trainor said the hotel doesn't have plans "at this time" for the Golden Dragon's space.
"Food and beverage operations constantly need to be updated to keep them viable," said Gary Seibert, area vice president and managing director for Hilton Hotels in Hawaii.
Murray Towill, president of Hawaii Hotel and Lodging Association, said the rising cost of food and beverage operations has been a topic in the hospitality industry for a while.
"It's a very expensive operation and costs are rising," Towill said. "That's just one of the realities that we are dealing with."
Seibert said that Hilton has a contract with the union that prevents it from outsourcing food and beverage operations.
Watanabe said that Hilton and Local 5 agreed during 2006 and 2007 contract negotiations to work together to increase the viability of these hotel amenities, so the union was disappointed to hear of the closure.
Ultimately the union is interested in making these operations profitable because of its stake in the success of the hotels, Watanabe said.
The hotel implemented temporary food and beverage cutbacks last November due to seasonal fluctuations in occupancy, according to Cynthia Rankin, Hilton's regional director of public relations.
Hilton's cutbacks, from Nov. 18 to Dec. 21, included the closing of breakfast service at the Tapa caf; reduced operations at the Village Steak and Seafood restaurant; and the Golden Dragon closing for dinner.
But Hilton said it has many available positions -- in the front office, food and beverage, safety and security, administrative and housekeeping departments -- and hopes to train and place restaurant employees in other areas of hotel operations.
However, the union said it would be harder for Golden Dragon workers to transition to other jobs, since many of them are immigrants who face a language barrier.
Watanabe said other food and beverage operations throughout Waikiki hotels have shut down in recent months, including temporary closures at the Sheraton hotels due to renovations and the reduced hours at the Ala Moana Hotel's Plantation Cafe, which affected between 20 and 30 union members.
The Pacific Beach Hotel also recently closed Shogun Restaurant.