Chinatown business owners tackle growing concerns over First Fridays, street closures

Jamie Winpenny

CHINATOWN—About 20 restaurant, gallery, and business owners gathered at Bambu Two on Bethel Street Wednesday morning for a meeting of the Arts District Merchants Association (ADMA). They turned up to discuss the recent First Friday street closures in Chinatown, and future closures for events such as the Hallowbaloo Music and Arts Festival. A representative from the Honolulu Police Department was on hand as well, to give a presentation on the importance of community policing.

The meeting moved along briskly under the leadership of association president J.J. Niebuhr of J.J. Dolan’s. Several of the attendees noted negative experiences with the recent street closures in Chinatown, expressing concerns over noise levels, security, and the placement of booths, bars, and stages.

It was noted that Black Cat Tattoo suffered a broken window at the last First Friday event, and that additional HPD and private security presence is needed for street closures.

One attendee, who asked not to be identified, said after the meeting that many area merchants are concerned about the motivation of the producers of the First Friday street closures, pointing out that the promotion company has no physical presence in Chinatown beyond the events. The attendee worries that the promotion company, Kapua Productions, is motivated solely by profits and not by the long-term betterment of the Chinatown community.

It was noted at the meeting that there will be no Nuuanu Street closure for First Friday in November due to APEC security concerns.

The upcoming Hallowbaloo event will see several street closures in Downtown and Chinatown on Saturday, October 29.

Mark Tarone, Hallowbaloo’s producer, was on hand. Tarone said his organization is taking proactive measures to ensure a safe, secure, and enriching experience for attendees, participants, and for area merchants.

“All eyes are on us,” Tarone said at the meeting. He said that he has increased the number of HPD special duty officers to 13 and the private security presence to 31 guards, well beyond what he has employed in the past.

Tarone discussed other measures he’s taken to ensure minimal impact on traffic and to ensure public safety. Street closures in the area will take place only on Saturday to minimize traffic impact, and will begin at 2:00 p.m. to accommodate the larger production needs of the event, which attracts thousands of attendees. Security will remain on-hand until 2:30 a.m. on the night of the 29th, to provide further security for revelers on the streets after last call at Chinatown bars. A street-cleaning crew will be on-hand until 3:00 a.m. to address any debris created following the conclusion of the event.

Many of those in attendance at the ADMA meeting expressed support for the Hallowbaloo event, which will bring dozens of musical and performance groups into Chinatown. “This is one of the fun ones,” said one gallery owner of Hallowbaloo’s impact on the community.

For more information about ADMA, visit

For information regarding performers, purveyors and street closures for Hallowbaloo, visit