The sudden closure of Wahiawa’s Karsten Thot bridge Sept. 17 has impacted some businesses more than others. However, one aspect of the unexpected detour has become clear: the closer you are to the bridge, the more likely it is your business is suffering.
“It’s easier to go to someplace like McDonald’s and then get back out right away, versus come all the way back in and go all the way back out,” said Owen Masaki, general manager of Dot’s Restaurant, just a few hundred yards from the 80-year-old bridge.
Masaki estimates business at the popular eatery has dropped as much as 40 percent since the state DOT decided to close the bridge for six weeks of emergency repairs.
Residents who live north of the bridge in Waialua, Whitmore Village, Haleiwa or Sunset Beach can still access one south-bound lane of the bridge every weekday morning from 5 to 7.
However, many tourists have simply stopped driving through Wahiawa to get to the famous beaches and crashing surf of the North Shore. Instead of using Kamehameha Highway, visitors are driving on Wilikina Drive, the only option for those headed north from Central Oahu.
“Since the bridge closure we have not had one tourist group come in yet,” said Nani Meyer, a supervisor at Café Olive, one of the many Wahiawa restaurants lining Kamehameha Highway. “Our employees still have the same hours and work the same days, so we’re pretty good as far as that goes.”
But across the street, the owner of Maui Mike’s has been forced to trim work schedules as sales dropped as much as 20 percent after the bridge closure.
“The more hours they can work, the more they can make,” Jairus Cannon said of his staff at Maui Mike’s. “We'd like to give them more hours, but right now we just can't do it.”
Cannon said many of his potential customers have been scared off by the threat of gridlock. But, he says the lunch time traffic really isn’t that bad.
“Wahiawa town is fine,” said Cannon, “It's just going around Wahiawa that gets bad.”