Tony Roma’s Kahala will close tomorrow
A former Hawaii resident will open a Chinese restaurant there
Tony Roma's Famous for Ribs restaurant will close its 20-year-old Kahala location for good at 11 tomorrow night, and a Chinese eatery will take its place.
Tony Roma's sublease on Kamehameha Schools land has been shopped around since at least last year. Rumors of the restaurant's impending closure came to the Star-Bulletin's attention in May, but its franchisee said at the time that any statement would be premature.
"Companies came through and wanted to buy the location, but for lease negotiations, things always fell off to the side. It went through this time," said Steven Pratt, district manager of WDI International Inc., franchisee for Tony Roma's and Capricciosa restaurants in Hawaii and elsewhere. The lease terms were not disclosed.
Oahu's other Tony Roma's restaurants -- in Waikiki and Aiea and its Express location at Ala Moana Center -- will remain open. The Maui location lost its lease in June, but Pratt said, "We're actually under construction right now for a new Tony Roma's on Front Street in Lahaina that should open in August."
The 160-seat restaurant and bar has operated at 4230 Waialae Ave. in Kahala since February 1986, and has about 50 employees, some of whom will be retained by the company. Others have been approached by other restaurants, Pratt said. Severance packages have been prepared for the workers.
WDI International is negotiating for space in Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center and the new Outrigger Waikiki Beach Walk project, but not for new Tony Roma's locations. The company also operates other restaurants, including Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in Times Square in New York City, Japan and Bali; Hard Rock Cafes; Capricciosa throughout the world; and six Tony Roma's in California. The company also handles catering for Watabe Wedding Corp.'s Ko Olina chapel and its operations in Nauru Tower.
Pratt said quite a few years were left on the Tony Roma's lease, which has been snapped up by a Carlsbad, Calif.-based restaurant chain that has incorporated locally as Chin's Kahala Inc. and Chin's Kapolei Inc.
The companies are owned by Chin Lung Tsai, a former Honolulu resident who established a chain of restaurants beginning in the late 1970s. He started his Chin's Szechwan Restaurant concept in the San Diego in 1984.
Tsai already has an Oahu buffet restaurant, Ho Ho Chinese Cuisine in the Marketplace at Kapolei, which primarily serves Cantonese-style food, said Crystal Chan, manager.
The name of the Kahala site has not yet been decided, but a working name is Chin's Hong Kong and Szechwan Cuisine, she said. It will be a fine-dining restaurant operated by Jian Yun Liang.
Interpreting for one of the partners, Chan said the Kahala store will be remodeled once Tony Roma's moves out, and it is hoped the new restaurant will open in May, though there is no firm date.
Tsai did not return Star-Bulletin calls.
The Kahala property is subleased by WDI International from a local hui that leases it from Kamehameha Schools. A representative of the hui declined comment.