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Front Street's Halloween benefits studied

Restaurants, bars saw boost during events

The Maui News
August 24, 2010

By BRIAN PERRY, City Editor

LAHAINA - Front Street restaurants and bars have benefited the most from Halloween celebrations in town since 2007, a Hawaii Pacific University professor of travel industry management reports in a study commissioned by the North Beach West Maui Benefit Fund.

Released Monday, the study shows that gross restaurant sales for about 30 businesses amounted to $390,654 on Halloween 2007, the year before organized adult activities ended. In 2008, Front Street restaurant sales on Halloween dropped 18.3 percent to $319,165, with sales falling another 11.2 percent from 2008 to 2009 to $283,419.

The drop in sales from 2007 to 2009 came to about 27.5 percent, according to the study.

Professor Jerome Agrusa said he gathered sales figures from most restaurants for Halloween day and made estimates for other restaurants that did not participate in the study.

The impact of Halloween varied by restaurant, he said.

One restaurant tallied $34,000 in gross sales on Halloween, while it normally has sales of $20,000 on an average day. Another restaurant had $25,000 to $30,000 in sales when it usually does only $4,000 in a day.

Halloween also helps restaurant employees on Front Street, many of whom can earn five to seven times more in tips on that one day, he said.

"They wait all year for that day," Agrusa said.

In July 2008, the Cultural Resources Commission denied permits for the LahainaTown Action Committee to sponsor Halloween events in the historic district, with panel members saying the party atmosphere and risque costumes were culturally insensitive to the area that was once the seat of the Hawaiian monarchy. The action meant the end to the closure of Front Street, an adult costume contest, vendor booths and portable toilets set up to handle the tens of thousands of visitors to the event.

The study also found that in 2007, $2,795,121 in sales was generated; in 2008, $2,820,230; and in 2009, $2,607,538.

Agrusa said there were more hotel rooms in West Maui in 2008 than in 2007, and hotel rooms had not yet been discounted to attract visitors being lost because of the recession. So, hotel revenue in 2008 was higher than 2007.

However, by 2009, room discounting was occurring and hotel room occupancies had dropped compared with 2007 and 2008. Room occupancy rates for Halloween were high, though, in all three years for Halloween day.

West Maui hotels were at 96 percent occupancy in 2007, 93 percent in 2008 and 91.2 percent in 2009, according to the study.

The study was commissioned by the North Beach West Maui Benefit Fund because the organization determined that the community discussion about Halloween festivities on Front Street has "lacked comprehensive, objective economic benefit data."

"The board believed it was important to get objective economic data on the Halloween event," said fund spokesman Lance Collins. "It is impossible to have a reasonable discussion without all the facts."

The nonprofit group, set up for community education and benefit on the west side, may forward the study to the county Planning Department, but no formal decision has been made yet, Collins said. And no decision has been made by the group on whether to present the study to the Cultural Resources Commission, he said.

* Brian Perry can be reached at

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