HONOLULU — The Big Island has ended the practice of allowing county-owned gyms to host hula dancers overnight due to fire code violations.

The practice was common for gyms in Hilo to host large numbers of dancers during the weeklong Merrie Monarch Festival, which features a hula competition that brings in competitors from across the state, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (http://bit.ly/2xstRJZ ) on Monday.

Hawaii Island Mayor Harry Kim said the Hawaii County Fire Department notified him before the last festival in April that the gyms did not pass safety standards for overnight stays.

“I consider this a very wise move,” Kim said. “This is strictly for the safety of the participants.”

In a letter on the decision that the mayor sent last month to festival organizers, it cited four gyms on the Big Island where the overnight stays are prohibited.

More than 130 people have stayed at these facilities up to nine nights during the last festival. To stay at these gyms, the hula groups paid the county a small fee that made the accommodations a more affordable option.

Festival organizers are helping to find other accommodations for the groups that planned on staying at these facilities.

To update the old gyms to meet modern standards would be costly and impractical, Kim said.

County officials say they are seeing if other facilities could be used in place of the gyms.

Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com

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