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StarBulletin.com

Waikiki hotel could face closure


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POSTED: Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Perennial guests at a 54-year-old Waikiki hotel say they are saddened that they might not be able to return to their favorite winter retreat, fearing it could close.

“;It's an end of an era,”; said Gary Hickerson, 52, of Portland, Ore.

“;We have all become friends,”; said his wife, Kelli, 53.

The low-rise Hawaiiana Hotel, with 93 units and grounds lush with palms, red ginger and colorful crotons, faces the holidays with an uncertain fate.

Guests saw the sign at 260 Beach Walk come down yesterday.

Lisa Hookano-Holly, the general manager, said the staff learned of the hotel's foreclosure, bankruptcy and purchase only a few days ago, adding she knows nothing of plans for the site.

“;All of us were shocked,”; said Hookano-Holly, who has worked at the hotel for 28 years. “;All of us were floored.”;

As she began to cry, she added, “;I've been there a long time. I know all these people for many, many years. It's very difficult for me. I can't help it. There's nothing I can do. It's beyond my control. I'm just an employee.”;

Some guests were given short notice to vacate their rooms and given an alternate hotel booking, according to remaining guests. Others were told they had to pay an additional $40 a day if they wanted to stay.

Most opted to stay, given the $175-a-night room rates, some discounted to $125.

Many wondered what would happen to the thousands of dollars they had paid in advance to stay at the hotel for several weeks. Some had also paid for a time-sharelike contract.

Bob and Nancy Walsh paid $3,100 for five weeks and paid $2,100 for a three-year contract that allows them one week free a year.

“;I've been coming since I was 17 years old,”; said Nancy Walsh, 58, of Squamish, British Columbia. “;My mum used to stay here, and I'd come with her at Christmas. The staff has got to be the best staff.”;

The Hawaiiana Hotel consists of three sets of buildings on leased land. One of the buildings—350 Saratoga Road—was recently purchased, the general manager said.

The hotel sits next to 280 Beach Walk, which is the site of a new multipurpose retail, restaurant and office building, and near the Trump International Hotel & Tower Waikiki at 223 Saratoga Road.

Cy Pollock of Vancouver Island, Canada, who has been coming since 1974 and twice a year since 1990, said, “;My daughter got married here and my granddaughter got married here, and in 1989 I brought my whole family.”;

Pollock said, “;Not that there's anything to this place; it's returnees like us that make this whole thing work.”;

He wonders what will happen to the $2,600 he paid in advance for three weeks in February.

But he also wonders whether he will ever see all his old friends again.