Uncle Robert’s Night Market Closes Indefinitely

August 22, 2019, 3:13 PM HST (Updated August 22, 2019, 3:13 PM)
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The popular Kalapana Night Market at Uncles Awa Club in Pāhoa is closed for business until further notice.

Also widely referenced as Uncle Robert’s Night Market, the weekly event announced an indefinite shutdown on social media platforms Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019.

Sam Keli‘iho‘omalu, one of the primary organizers of the weekly gathering, said the choice to temporarily shutter the venue was a family decision meant to send a message to a “handful of bad apples” refusing to abide by Night Market rules.

He noted specifically underaged drinking on site. Alcohol vendors at the market check identification religiously, Keli‘iho‘omalu said, but kids are sneaking outside alcohol onto the property. The family also suspects some drug dealing is taking place on the premises during market hours, which run from 5 to 10 p.m. every Wednesday evening.

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“This is a family place and there are rules people should be following,” Keli‘iho‘omalu said. “(The rule breakers) are not respecting the ‘āina or the people.”

The market closure will last at least two to three weeks, he added. The family hopes that duration will afford those disobeying the rules time consider their behavior and think about how it’s negatively impacting the Night Market, as well as how the closure will effect the 70-80 vendors who set up shop there weekly and the upwards of 2,000 market visitors who come every Wednesday for food, music and local fare.

As to the vendors who will miss out on one of the most popular venues across the island for the next few weeks, Keli‘iho‘omalu said those he’s spoken with are largely sympathetic to the family’s decision to close the market temporarily.

“They know where we’re coming from and what needs to be done,” he said. “They’re not as upset, more hurt that this has to happen and (it) makes them suffer.”

Several vendors had yet to return Big Island Now requests for comment as of 3 p.m. Thursday.

A family meeting is scheduled for Friday to determine the best course of action moving forward. Keli‘iho‘omalu said the Night Market, now in its 10th year of operation, will undoubtedly open again in the future. However, there will be some changes. One possibility is the presence of undercover police officers on the lookout for illicit behavior.

Uncle Robert’s Saturday Farmers Market will not be affected by the closure of the Night Market, Keli‘iho‘omalu said.

 

Max Dible
Max Dible is a reporter for Big Island Now. He will also serve in a news capacity for Pacific Media Group's Hawai‘i Island family of radio stations. He formerly worked as a community reporter for West Hawai‘i Today in Kailua-Kona from 2016 to 2019. Before that, he was a sports editor, sports reporter and radio talk show personality with the Iowa State Daily and KURE 88.5 FM, respectively, in Ames, Iowa. He's won several regional and national journalism awards, at both the collegiate and professional levels, for breaking news, long-form feature writing and his work as a sports columnist.
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