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    Long Live Lahaina

    By Liam P. Mayclem–

    Lahaina, the charming little town on Maui that gifted memories to the many millions of people who have visited over the years, is now just that, a memory. For Native Hawaiians, Lahaina had deep history so this hits home hard. The recent Lahaina fire, (August 9, 2023) has reduced this historic town to ashes, leaving thousands without jobs and homes. More than one hundred people have perished and hundreds more remain unaccounted for. It’s recorded as the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than 100 years.

    Lahaina was a popular place for LGBTQ+ visitors who came for the indigenous history, the chic art stores, inviting beach bars and restaurants, and the unrivaled million-dollar coastal views. The annual Maui Pride event has been pushed from this October to June 2024 (

    My Maui memories go back to 2003 when I first visited the island, explored Lahaina, and instantly fell in love. I was in awe of the massive and historic Banyan tree, dined at sunset at Fleetwood’s, bought a ukulele from Ravi guitars, and sat on the beach, rendered speechless at the sheer beauty. It is hard to imagine that all but the beautiful beaches and ocean views are gone. I am left speechless once again, this time with a hole in my heart.

    Photos Courtesy of Liam Mayclem

    There are massive relief efforts underway in Maui now. Many Bay Area chefs are in Maui helping to feed those in need. Among them are Chef Ravi Kapur (Liholiho), who flew there straight away to be on the frontlines. As we filed this story, Chef Kapur was getting ready for the arrival on Maui of President Joe Biden & First Lady Jill Biden. 

    Chef Mourad Lahlou’s Waicoco restaurant at The Westin Ka’anapali is closed for now. The Westin hotel is hosting those who lost their homes in the fires. “It’s truly heartbreaking and demoralizing for the people here,” Chef Mourad said. “We will come back, but it will take time. Stay tuned for info on some fundraising dinners for Maui in San Francisco soon.”

    Top Chef Leanne Wong lost her beloved Papa’aina restaurant at Old Lahaina’s historic, 122-year-old Pioneer Inn, but that has not stopped her from feeding people. “Our community mobilized right away,” Wong said of volunteer efforts to make 10,000 meals a day at the University of Hawaii Maui College.

    So many of my other friends have Maui memories too and they kindly took a few minutes to reflect and share them with me for the San Francisco Bay Times.

    Chef Jen Biesty (Shakewell, Oakland) told me Maui is a very special place for her family.

    “[It is] my favorite place on earth; we have explored the island many times. Kaanapali, Hana, Kihei to Lahaina are all magical places. We honeymooned or Maui-mooned there. I have a deep connection to the ocean and sea life. It’s absolutely devastating to see the destruction.”

    Sister Roma

    “My friend David McGrath and I visited Hawaii in 2018 to release his late husband’s ashes at sea. Maui was serene, the people were friendly, and I saw the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m heartbroken for the lives lost and suffering of their loved ones. Hoʻomalu.”

    Sammy Hagar

    “I remember when my wife Kari and I first went to Maui together. We rented a house in Makena and stayed for a couple of months. Then we met a realtor at Shep Gordon’s house. We asked if he had any properties with a lot of acreage, with privacy and ocean views, and with an extra house for a studio. We were leaving the next day on the way to the airport. He showed us a property out in Waipio Bay. We had 40 minutes to look at the property and we bought it on first look, loved it, and lived there 27 years. It was home.”

    He added, “I hope they rebuild Lahaina as close as possible to the original Island Village with all of its charm.”

    Chef Tanya Holland

    “My favorite Maui memory is enjoying dinner at Mama’s for my 50th. Maui is truly my happy place and where I feel most at home.”

    Regarding her hopes for the future of Lahaina, she shared, “Respect for the indigenous culture—may the aloha continue, but give space to heal. Hoping all will support, but don’t exploit. Mahalo!

    David Perry and Alfredo Casuso

    David Perry said, on behalf of himself and his husband, Alfredo: “The first time I was in Lahaina was 1999 when I worked my way around the world aboard ship. I was captivated. Alfredo and I have been back together, most recently in 2014. We said it reminded us of Guerneville on the water: charming, funky, and real. Also, as we both love history, knowing that in addition to so many lives, tragically and painfully lost, so has been so much history of the island and its people.”

    He continued, “I hope that they rebuild the museum and the Pioneer Inn exactly as they were, and as much of historic Front Street, too, as a tribute. It won’t be the same, but it will hold the space and hopefully new artifacts can be donated to tell the story of this special place, its architecture, heritage, and people.”

    Jan Wahl and Her Sister Susie

    Jan Wahl said, on behalf of her and her sister Susie, “I have spent wonderful times on that magical island. Lahaina so historic and unforgettable, will live inside our hearts always. The air is alive with the spirits telling to be brave and rebuild, nurture, and love. Mahalo to Hawaii and brave Hawaiians; we are with you.”

    David Landis

    “Maui will always represent to me a place in America where culture, food, the tropics and music bring out the best in everyone. I’ve been traveling to Hawaii since I was 4 years old, visited Maui since the ’80’s, and fondly remember the beaches, the waterfalls, the road to Hana, and Haleakalā Crater at dawn—along with our fabulous handpicked organic lunch cooked especially for us at O’o Farms. My hope for Lahaina is that it will be rebuilt to honor its architectural and cultural heritage and that the beloved Banyan tree will survive.”

    Marc Benioff

    The Salesforce boss and Maui resident was among the first to take to social media soon after the fires destroyed much of Lahaina.

    He wrote, “Lahaina resembles a ghost town after fire tore through Maui. There are urgent demands where government support will not be available in time. I am asking you to join our ongoing support of World Central Kitchen’s immediate relief to victims.”

    Please keep Maui and the people of the island in your heart and mind. Treasure the aloha memories and pray that this community will rebuild, recover, and thrive once again. Maui needs your help now!

    Please consider making a donation to any one of the nonprofits or funds listed here. We stand with you, Hawaii. Long live Lahaina. Hoʻomalu! #MauiSTRONG

    Donate to World Central Kitchen

    Maui Strong Fund

    Maui Food Bank

    Maui Pride Disaster Relief

    Help Maui Chefs’ and Farmers’ Response

    Red Cross for Maui

    Feed Maui

    Emmy Award-winning radio and television personality Liam Mayclem is regularly featured on KPIX as well as KCBS, where he is the popular Foodie Chap. Born in London, Mayclem is now at home in the Bay Area, where he lives with his husband, photographer Rick Camargo. For more information:

    Liam’s LGBTQI List
    Published on August 24, 2023