PHOTOS BY JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
The agreement allowing Don Ho's Island Grill at the Aloha Tower Marketplace to use the Don Ho name will expire at the end of the year. Ho's pictures grace the walls, above.
A restaurant without a name
Don Ho's Island Grill will soon lose its famous name
More than a year after the passing of its legendary namesake, Don Ho's Island Grill
will be getting a new name.
Owner Fred Livingston said he was unable to obtain an extension of the licensing agreement for the restaurant, and so will change the name by the end of the year.
"We mutually agreed to discontinue using the name at the end of this year," said Livingston of his negotiations with the trustees of Ho's estate. "Basically it will be the same. We'll just change the name."
The trustees of Don Ho's estate, who include Jace McQuivey, Ed Brown and Charles P. Rettig, declined to renew the licensing agreement with the restaurant.
The three issued a statement on behalf of the trustees, saying they were working on issues relating to the trusts and various associated matters, and will refrain from public comment at this time. Mediation efforts involve, among other things, a dispute over the sale last month of Ho's Lanikai home for $6.05 million.
Founded in December 1998 at the Aloha Tower Marketplace, Don Ho's Island Grill has been a longtime favorite for visitors and residents alike, offering cocktails, surfboard pizzas, and entrees like grilled pineapple shrimp.
The menu, which has evolved over the years to feature items popular with local patrons, will also remain the same, as will the ambiance, he said.
Weekly entertainment will continue, said Livingston, including live local bands and entertainers on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturday, and the Al Waterson karaoke contests on Sundays.
Livingston, a restaurateur who previously owned a number of local eateries including Sunset Grill at Restaurant Row, Trattoria and Davey Jones Ribs in Waikiki, and the Crouching Lion Inn, has since closed or sold off everything except for Don Ho's Island Grill.
He had also opened Tower Grill at the Aloha Tower Marketplace, but it closed last fall after about a year in business.
Livingston acquired Don Ho's Island Grill from Maui entrepreneur Shep Gordon in 2002.
Tahitian Lanai returns?
Livingston said he was toying with the idea of resurrecting the name of the Tahitian Lanai, a restaurant that he also owned for eight and a half years at the Waikikian Hotel, now the site of a Hilton timeshare.
The then-40-year-old Tahitian Lanai shut its doors on new year's eve 1997.
The mention of the Tahitian Lanai still brings up nostalgic memories from those who remember the Waikiki of yesteryear, its piano bar and mai tais.
But Livingston said he might also run a public contest to see who could come up with a new name for Don Ho's island Grill.
Livingston said he has fond memories of the late Don Ho, who was his friend of 35 years, and who shared his interest in working for the Variety Club Children's Charity.
Livingston was chief parker or president of the club, and Ho was its international ambassador. At one time, Livingston created a "Don Ho doll" that blew tiny bubbles, and was given to people who made contributions to the Variety Club.
"He was wonderful about coming in, and posing for photographs with the tourists," said Livingston.
Ho's appearances were spontaneous, he added.
Ho would show up at the grill for lunch or dinner anywhere between two to three times a week. If there were special occasions or events, Livingston said, Ho was always willing to show up.
Livingston has several items on the menu named after the legendary entertainer -- from Don Ho's Paniolo Platter, which includes teriyaki ribs, grilled steak and chicken wings with homemade garlic aioli to Don Ho's Hawaiian Plate, which offers kalua pork and cabbage served with poi, ahi poke, rice and lomi lomi salmon.
Livingston also has a wall of Don Ho memorabilia, along with tropical drinks served in a special "Suck'Em Up Glass."
Ho died of heart failure on April 14, 2007, after five decades of shows in Waikiki. He was 76.
Livingston said he misses his dear friend, who was the impetus behind the Aloha spirit of the place, but hopes to keep it alive with live, local entertainment.
"Time marches on," said Livingston.