Still Lucky To Live Lanai During COVID - Honolulu Civil Beat

Election Results

Last Update: 8/13/2022 10:47pm HST
  • Governor (D)
  • Governor (R)
  • Lt. Governor (D)
  • Congressional District 1 (D)
  • Congressional District 2 (D)

About the Author

Robin Kaye

Robin Kaye is a longtime Lanai resident and energy activist and chairman of the Friends of Lanai. He is the author of Lanai Folks.

We are so fortunate on Lanai to have two grocery stores that — despite the pandemic, despite the sometimes-irregular, generally once-a-week barge schedules, the high cost of transportation, the government’s ever-changing rules, and more — continue to feed us.

Some may grumble about how barren some shelves appear, especially by the last day before the next barge arrives. But there seems to be a serendipity in the air over here, because it’s maybe at most a day or two’s delay and then the shelves are once again full of milk and juice and (almost) whatever you need.

That’s not to say there haven’t been shortages. Several weeks, for example, went by without any flour in either store. And more recently, it was impossible to find any — wait for it — mayonnaise!

While the hours might have changed at Richard’s Market (the store owned by Larry Ellison, Lanai’s majority landowner), the 8-9 a.m. kupuna hour still remains at both markets.

Cars lined up on Fraser Avenue to pick up a Maui County-sponsored free produce bag from Lanai High & Elementary School’s parking lot, a weekly event during the pandemic. Courtesy: Robin Kaye/2020

Richard’s still limits the number of customers allowed in the store at one time. Stanley Ruidas still greets arriving seniors during Pine Isle’s kupuna hour, and still offers to help them with their groceries.

And the store owners still try to bring in any special order, or check in the storeroom if there’s something you really need; if someone doesn’t honor the request to “please wear a mask,” they don’t hesitate to ask them to leave.

Rate Increase Coming

Our community has an established quarantine delivery service. At no charge, anyone who has to quarantine at home and has no friends or family to shop for them can order online at Richard’s Market, and then arrange for a community volunteer (like me) to pick up their groceries and leave them, contact-less, on their front porch.

Outside of our commercial food options, there’s no doubt lots of venison in our freezers. I don’t hunt, but I barter my garden’s produce for venison, so dinner is often a venison cheeseburger deluxe. And there’s frequently fresh fish in our kitchens as well, usually out of the coolers in the back of the pickups of our local fishermen.

But there are increasingly some worries over here about costs. Young Brothers’ 46% rate increase will no doubt be passed on, at least in part, to us. Our food costs are already high; this will make them even more so. One store owner, for whom the barge carries 95% of his freight, is now forced to consider using the services of Kamaka Air, which may actually turn out to be less expensive — for both the owner and for residents.

On Lanai, with little exception, folks are masked at the Post Office, in both stores, in all the restaurants — anywhere inhabited by more than one person. Masks come off in your house, or in your friend’s house, but in community spaces your health is respected and honored by another’s mask. I’ve yet to go into any of these public spaces and see a mask-less person.

And the restaurants work hard to keep us fed as well, working around the new requirements, themselves trying to stay afloat. Great coffee at Coffee Works; order online or call first, it’s open six days/week. Wonderful breakfasts, pastries and plate lunches are available from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Lāna‛i’s famous Blue Ginger Cafe.

Lāna‛i’s only gas station, Lanai City Service, has a deli counter, where their special sandwiches are always a delight: panko shrimp with coleslaw; Italian sausage with a homemade pesto sauce; really ono crab cakes. And we even have a new restaurant, open for takeout lunch and dinner: Ganotisi’s offers Filipino and Hawaiian foods, with the most incredible cheeseburgers daily.

Pele’s Other Garden continues to provide pizza, pasta, salads and sandwiches. No Ka Oi Grindz creates new culinary delights daily; Cafe 565 makes a meat lover’s calzone that’s enough for three meals. Even Hotel Lana’i’s restaurant, Lanai City Grille, open to socially distant diners, provides delivery around town.

The restaurants work hard to keep us fed.

It’s truly amazing to consider the variety of ono choices we have despite these terrible times. But wait: there’s also the weekly vegetable give-aways from our farmers. Maui County pays them to grow more — and then give their lettuce, kale, papayas and other fruits and vegetables to any and all who drive up.

So to all the businesses, restaurants, farmers and stores that keep us fat and sassy, much mahalo for jobs well done!

It’s too early to tell what impacts will result from the most recent reinstatement of the interisland quarantine. The hotels at Koele and Manele have now closed again, and construction workers imported from off-island have gone home. Ellison’s operating company, Pulama Lanai, is no longer paying some hotel employees (although they generously did for months) so our unemployment rate is likely to increase.

But Lanai is still, to our knowledge, the only COVID-19-free island, and has only, as far as we know, had one brush with infection: before the most recent interisland quarantine, two construction workers were found to be infected when they returned to Honolulu and local workers with whom either might have had contact were isolated here.

It’s been almost three weeks, and so far we are clear. Lucky — in so many ways — we live Lanai.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.

Read this next:

A Catastrophe Is Growing At Oahu’s Jail

Not a subscription

Civil Beat is a small nonprofit newsroom, and we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content because we believe in journalism as a public service. That’s why donations from readers like you are essential to our continued existence.

Help keep our journalism free for all readers by becoming a monthly member of Civil Beat today.


About the Author

Robin Kaye

Robin Kaye is a longtime Lanai resident and energy activist and chairman of the Friends of Lanai. He is the author of Lanai Folks.

Latest Comments (0)

Larry Ellison owns Richard's Market? I guess if push comes to shove he can afford to help Lanai residents with their basic needs. Not much can be said about the billionaire who owns the biggest property on Kauai who was busy trying to oust old Hawaiian homesteaders so he could enjoy more 'privacy.'

cysigningup · 1 year ago

Aloha Robin, Mahalo nui loa for the time and effort taken to post an Aloha-filled article. Some readers may think 'only in Lania.'  Compassion mixed with common sense - two traits readily accessible - anywhere.Bowing in gratitude to all who nurture an all for one and one for all perspective.

Soul · 1 year ago

State should use CARES money to help Young Bros.

regina · 1 year ago

Join the conversation


IDEAS is the place you'll find essays, analysis and opinion on every aspect of life and public affairs in Hawaii. We want to showcase smart ideas about the future of Hawaii, from the state's sharpest thinkers, to stretch our collective thinking about a problem or an issue. Email to submit an idea.


You're officially signed up for our daily newsletter, the Morning Beat. A confirmation email will arrive shortly.

In the meantime, we have other newsletters that you might enjoy. Check the boxes for emails you'd like to receive.

  • What's this? Be the first to hear about important news stories with these occasional emails.
  • What's this? You'll hear from us whenever Civil Beat publishes a major project or investigation.
  • What's this? Get our latest environmental news on a monthly basis, including updates on Nathan Eagle's 'Hawaii 2040' series.
  • What's this? Get occasional emails highlighting essays, analysis and opinion from IDEAS, Civil Beat's commentary section.

Inbox overcrowded? Don't worry, you can unsubscribe
or update your preferences at any time.