ENCINITAS — The owner of the longtime Hawaiian restaurant set to close Oct. 26 said the children of the late property owner are forcing the closure of the three businesses on 4th and D streets.
Naomi Kealani Keliinoi, owner of Kealani’s, said the pending property sale that is driving her business, along with Manhattan Giant Pizza and a realty business out of the 5,500-square-foot building, has been “devastating.”
“This restaurant has been my life for two decades,” Keliinoi said. “I haven’t been able to sleep, this has been devastating to me.”
The Coast News first reported last Friday that the three businesses were being shut due to the sale of the property, which is currently owned by the children of Maurice and Constance Lund. The children inherited the property after the husband and wife passed away earlier this year.
Kealani’s and Manhattan Giant Pizza have been in business at the location for more than 20 years.
Although originally reported that the new property owner was forcing the eviction of the tenants, The Coast News has since learned that the property is still in escrow and the Lund family issued the 30-day eviction notice.
The Coast News made several attempts to contact the property owners and potential buyers prior to publication. After publication, both parties reached out to reporters. The buyer spoke under the condition of anonymity.
The potential buyer claimed the Lund family has pushed for the 30-day removal because they want to close escrow by the end of the 30 days. The buyer said they were open to closing escrow in 60 or 90 days, but the family was insistent upon closing in the month window.
A representative of the Lund family said the buyer was insistent upon having the building vacant before the close of escrow, and that escrow had been set for 30 days.
Keliinoi, who occupies the largest spot in the building, confirmed Monday that the Lunds issued the notice in September, days after she was released from the hospital after undergoing reconstructive surgery on her knee.
“It wasn’t the new property owner, it was the children of the Lund family,” she said. “It’s really sad.”
Keliinoi said that this wasn’t the first time the Lund children had threatened eviction. During a previous attempt to sell the property, she said they issued a three-day-or-quit eviction notice alleging that she owed them $4,200 in unpaid rent.
But Keliinoi said she was able to stave off the attempt after showing documentation that the unpaid balance was actually a credit that the elder Lund couple had given her for taking care of certain building maintenance at her expense.
The Lund children are being represented by David Peck, an attorney with the Coast Law Group and president of the Encinitas 101 MainStreet Association. Peck said that the tenants are being vacated at the request of the purchaser.
Peck said on Friday that he “feels bad” for the businesses, but he said they are on month-to-month leases, which leaves them little recourse.
“You never want to see businesses go away, and these have been mainstays in our downtown,” Peck said. “If they had longer term leases, they might be in a better position.”
Keliinoi also disputes this assertion. She said that she was in Year 2 of a 10-year lease she signed with the elder Lunds, but said she couldn’t afford to fight the current eviction action in court.
“I don’t have the money to try to fight them on this,” Keliinoi said. “But they know that Mr. Lund and I had negotiated that lease, because I have proof of it.”
Both seller and buyer acknowledge that the 5,500-square-foot building is aging and has a host of issues, ranging from mold, antiquated utilities and termites.
The buyer said inspectors concluded that it would be impossible to insure the building in its current state, and that the building would have to be vacant before any repairs would take place. The buyer said they learned about the actual state of the building only after the inspector’s report at the start of escrow.
“We just couldn’t have the liability of having a building uninsured and tenants inside of it,” the buyer said. “When we bought it, we were excited because it seemed like a historical building, but once we got the inspection report, we realized that it was a lot worse than we expected. We might not be able to repair the damage. It might have to come down.”
Since the news of the closure broke, a number of people have come forward to pay tribute to the businesses, especially Kealani’s, where Keliinoi has a reputation for generosity and philanthropy.
Over the years, she has fed the homeless and those in need of a meal, including twice a year when she shuts down the restaurant (before Christmas and before Thanksgiving) to feed people in need.
“Every Thanksgiving and Christmas Kealani shuts down the restaurant and serves a FREE dinner to all that have no place to go for a warm holiday meal and provides the less fortunate with clothing and shoes,” wrote Tara Miller, a longtime patron and supporter. “This generous, thoughtful human deserves to be recognized, at the very least; for all she has done just because she cares.”
In keeping with her generous nature, Keliinoi is hosting a farewell from 2 to 4 p.m. Wednesday, and will be having free giveaways, live music and food throughout the day.
“I just want to say goodbye, and thank you to the community, who has supported me all of these years,” Keliinoi said.