By Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer
The future of Liberty Houses downtown Honolulu store is in limbo as the Hawaii retailer, fighting to emerge from bankruptcy, said yesterday it may reject its Fort Street lease.
The company, however, has committed to assuming all of its 17 other existing store leases in Hawaii and Guam, ending some speculation that the retailer, which closed about a dozen stores early in its nearly three-year bankruptcy case, would close more.
Both disclosures were made in a court filing late last week.
Liberty House president John Monahan said the company is simply paying too much rent downtown more than twice what it pays at other stores, on a percentage basis.
"The downtown store provides an acceptable level of sales that in our normal model would be a successful store but, unfortunately, we pay a lot of rent downtown," he said.
Under bankruptcy rules, Liberty House has the ability to accept or reject all property leases, and has been negotiating reduced rental payments with New York-based Lexington Corporate Properties, the downtown landlord.
Lexington officials could not be reached yesterday. The downtown lease runs through 2009, with options to extend another 26 years.
Liberty Houses downtown store employs 65 to 70 people.
The company has operated the 85,000-square-foot store since 1982, but has had a presence downtown since 1849 when the area was the retail center of the Islands.
Downtowns retail scene has changed dramatically in recent years.
Significant vacancies in the area and new competition from Ross Dress for Less have affected Liberty Houses downtown store.
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