Bongo Ben’s to Keep Doors Shut for Good

May 20, 2020, 4:12 PM HST (Updated May 20, 2020, 4:12 PM)
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Bongo Ben’s will not reopen its doors, partially due to strain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo courtesy of Bongo Ben’s Facebook page.

Bongo Ben’s Island Cafe in Kailua-Kona will not be reopening.

The oceanfront restaurant, located on Ali‘i Drive, made the announcement on its Facebook page Tuesday. Owner Beth Martinez confirmed the news with Big Island Now on Wednesday.

The COVID-19 pandemic, as well as other factors, played into the decision. The online statement reads as follows:

“It is with sadness we are announcing that Bongo Ben’s will not be reopening. Our landlord, Coconut Grove, has pulled out of making the promised renovations for the second year in a row, and we cannot successfully move forward with so many issues needing repair or replacement, and the remodel we were counting on and anxiously anticipating. And with the added mandated requirements and restrictions due to COVID-19 being put on restaurants, and not being able to negotiate reasonable terms on our lease ending May (31), we have no choice but to close our doors.

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We cannot express enough our gratitude for such overwhelming support from our staff and our friends like you over the years. We will miss our locals, some who came every day, some weekly, and so many out-of-town guests that discovered us then loved us, and many we enjoyed seeing year after year.

Aloha friends. It has been a pleasure serving you, and we will miss that privilege.”

Bongo Ben’s had been open for more than a decade, and under current ownership for the previous seven years. The cafe was well-frequented, often requiring wait times for walk-ins. It had earned a near 4-Star rating on YELP, a 4-Star rating on Tripadvisor, and a near 5-Star rating on Facebook.

Martinez didn’t comment on whether Bongo Ben’s might open again someday, perhaps at another location.

There will be a restaurant liquidation sale inside the Bongo Ben’s location on Saturday, May 23, at 9 a.m. No RSVP is needed and those interested should enter through the front of the restaurant. Only a certain number of people will be allowed in at a time.

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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