Fred Livingston falls off the restaurant wagon, plans new spot
FRED LIVINGSTON is at it again. He's going to open another restaurant. Yes, you did read that he was working to get out of the restaurant business. That was in November 2005, when he announced that he was selling the Crouching Lion Inn and Sunset Grill at Restaurant Row.
His other restaurants that were not already closed or sold were shuttered by the Outrigger Beach Walk redevelopment project in Waikiki, though he continues to own and operate Don Ho's Island Grill at Aloha Tower Marketplace.
Now he's signed a 10-year lease for the former Big Island Steak House space, also at Aloha Tower.
"Isn't it stupid?" he self-mocked.
He was going to focus on his real estate and commercial property investments and a development project on the Big Island, he said back then.
Now he's had to come up with another new restaurant name.
He will call it Tower Grill and its menu will include fresh island fish, aged beef, salads, sandwiches and breakfast items.
Tower Grill's on-site bakery will create artisanal breads and old-fashioned American desserts.
It's a new restaurant concept for Livingston, but he said the menu will be "somewhat similar" to the menu at Sunset Grill when he owned it. Prices will be similar as well, he said.
Former Sunset Grill chef Bobby Miller will head up Tower Grill's kitchen. Perkin Lee, who has been with Livingston since he owned the former Tahitian Lanai, will be general manager.
DKKY Architecture Studio Inc. is working up the design, which will feature a Hawaiian plantation-inspired interior with floor-to-ceiling windows and pastel colors -- and it will make full use of the space's outdoor wrap-around lanai.
It is a lanai that was often packed with Big Island Steakhouse clientele. Despite its popularity, the restaurant closed in April 2005 amid financial difficulties.
Livingston has the reputation of being a turnaround guy in the restaurant business. He cited the Tahitian Lanai, Trattoria Italian Restaurant and Davey Jones' Ribs, formerly known as Pieces of Eight, as examples.
But he is starting from scratch this time at Aloha Tower, having always loved the location and the view.
"It is easier to start from scratch and come up with your own concept ... and not inherit a lot of problems," he said.
In this case, he asked Aloha Tower officials why the space was closed. "And they asked, 'Why, do you want it?' and I said, 'OK,'" Livingston said.
Aloha Tower management is looking forward to the 6,100-square-foot space being successful under Livingston's ownership.
"That is exactly what we're looking forward to, to have him come here, take that space and do his thing," said Floyd Williamson, general manager.
"We are really confident that Fred's going to do a great job there."
The plan is for the restaurant to open in September, with hiring to take place the previous month.
It takes four months to get a new liquor license, so that process is under way. Livingston must also make changes to the grease trap to meet federal requirements.
Were there a 12-step group for recovering restaurateurs, he might not be the focus of this column.
"Addiction is an excellent word," Livingston said. "I think most people in the restaurant business will admit to the same problem."
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4747, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org