Lights Not Out at Uncle Billy’s Hotel
Uncle Billy’s Hotel in Hilo will live to see another day.
On Jan. 7, it was announced that the 145-room hotel, located on Banyan Drive, would close its doors come Feb. 1, with the loss of a State Land Lease highlighting the factors involved in the decision. Uncle Billy’s announced Monday, however, that the hotel will live on under new, undisclosed management.
The hotel’s lease was set to expire and be converted to a month-to-month permit. The new management would take over under these terms on Feb. 12.
“The new Owner and Manager are in a unique position to be able to operate the Hotel on a month to month basis; something we could not possibly have achieved. Their willingness to accommodate our employees and move mountain in such a short amount of time attests to their dedication to continue the spirit of our own family’s commitment to the Hilo community,” said William J. Kimi, Jr., known as “Uncle Billy.”
The hotel, which was set to close Monday, is expected to continue operations under its current management until a hoped approval of the transition by the state Board of Land and Natural Resources during its Feb. 12 meeting.
According to the current management of the hotel, the Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources was supportive in the transition and interested parties, including the Hawai’i Island District Land Agents, believed that keeping the property alive and in operation was best for not only the state, but also the Hilo Community through the Community Plan for Banyan Drive, which is currently under development.
“In the end, this is all about preserving our employees’ jobs and the little bit of old Hawaiiana this property offers the community,” said Kimi Jr.
The hotel was first opened in the 1960’s by Kimi, and was mostly recently run by his grandson, Aaron Whiting.
In January, Whiting said “emotional reserves” had been exhausted trying to keep the hotel going.
“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.”
Reservations prior to the Feb. 12 managerial take-over will be conducted through Uncle Billy’s Reservation line, and a previously planned liquidation sale has been canceled.