Update: Uncle Billy’s Hilo Bay Hotel to Close Feb. 1
***Updated at 2:08 p.m. to include a statement from State Senator Gilbert Kahele.***
After being in operation for over 51 years in Hilo, Uncle Billy’s Hilo Bay Hotel has decided to call it quits.
The 145-room hotel located on Banyan Drive was opened in the 1960’s by William J. Kimi Jr. and will close its doors on Feb. 1.
In recent years, the hotel was run by Kimi’s grandson, Aaron Whiting.
The closure comes with more that just an expiration of the hotel’s current lease. On March 14, the lease is set to expire and be converted to a month-to-month permit.
Whiting noted in the closure announcement that the decision to end the hotel’s half-century in the community comes with a multitude of factors.
“We have spent more than simply money in attorney’s fees, appraisal evaluations, business plans and, not to mention, keeping an aging property in service beyond its functional capacity; we have exhausted our emotional reserves,” Whiting said. “It seemed unimaginable that our little iconic Hawaiian hotel that so reflects the heart and soul of the Hilo community, would one day not exist.”
Whiting says the hotel began when Hilo was a small sugar cane town and that the hotel was built largely by the two hands of his grandfather.
The hotel will maintain its full staff through the month of January, as the month is expected to be busy with community members planning their last stay at the hotel before the closure.
While the closure of Uncle Billy’s General Store is also near, Whiting says there is no current closure date for the store.
Twenty-seven hotel employees and ten general store employees will be impacted by the closure.
Whiting confirmed that Uncle Billy’s Kona Bay Hotel will remain under normal operation.
State Senator Gilbert Kahele said that the announcement of Uncle Billy’s Hilo Bay Hotel’s closure is a “sad say for the Hilo Community.”
In an e-mailed statement, the senator said the hotel was more than an icon in the community and that the Kimi family have been strong advocates for the Hilo economy and tourism for over five decades.
“The loss of this hotel is truly an historic loss for the island,” said Senator Kahele. “My immediate concern is focused on the future for the hotel workers and ensuring they will be able to find adequate employment. I will be working with state and county agencies to minimize the impact the closure will have on business in the Hilo area.”
Senator Kahele previously supported legislative that allowed the hotel to remain operable.