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Uncle Robert’s Reopens, With Warnings

September 9, 2019, 12:57 PM HST (Updated September 9, 2019, 12:57 PM)
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Uncle Robert’s Night Market reopened last week, with caveats. Courtesy photo. 

Uncle Robert’s Night Market opened last Wednesday after taking a week off due to the bad behavior of some of its patrons.

The popular Kalapana Night Market at Uncles Awa Club in Pāhoa told Big Island News it was shutting its doors indefinitely on Aug. 21, 2019. Sam Keli‘iho‘omalu, one of the primary organizers of the weekly gathering, said the decision was made due to “a few bad apples” who were smuggling booze onto the property and engaging in under-age drinking. The family also suspected drug use and possible drug dealing at the site.

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

After closing down for a week, the Night Market reopened for business on Sept. 4, 2019. The news was met with relief among vendors, some of whom use the Night Market venue as their primary source of income. Nearly 80 vendors in total participate, with upwards of 2,000 visitors every Wednesday evening from 5 to 10 p.m.

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On its Facebook page the day of its reopening, organizers posted a message declaring their intentions.

“We will not tolerate any nonsense during Wednesday night market/concerts on our home land,” the message read. “We walked this land, put our hands, spirit and emotions into this ‘āina long before it became a market. Our kupuna (papa Robert and Puna Keli’iho’omalu) are buried on this land. We have every right to refuse entry to anyone being disrespectful. This ‘āina is our heart!”

Keli‘iho‘omalu told BIN there would be heightened security upon the market’s return, which may include undercover police officers dressed in plain clothes.

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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