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Nick’s Fishmarket closes


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POSTED: Thursday, February 05, 2009

Nick’s Fishmarket served its last customers in its 41-year history Tuesday night. After service, management told the restaurant’s 38 employees the restaurant would not open for business yesterday, Vice President Ben Dowling said this morning.

Dowling cited the downturned economy and a failed effort to find an investor, talks with whom fell through on Tuesday.

“We didn’t make the decision until that day.”

“Unfortunately the marketplace is exactly what it is, and you know, so it was time,” he said, describing his feelings as “devastated.”

The parent company, which Dowling identified as Seafood Restaurant Ventures Inc., plans to file for bankruptcy.

The restaurant has two-and-a-half years remaining on its lease at the Waikiki Gateway Hotel, which as of yesterday afternoon, had not received official notification of the restaurant’s closure.

The employees will be paid in full. “Everybody’s covered and will be paid ... the checks are already made out.”

One employee has been with the company 33 years, he said.

The company plans to file its closing notice with the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations today.

Word of Nick’s closing surfaced yesterday as the restaurant called customers with reservations to cancel them, and as its purveyors made deliveries to other restaurants and spread word of its closing.

The first Nick’s Fishmarket was opened in 1968 in the Marine Surf Hotel in Waikiki by Nicholas Nickolas, a longtime Hawaii restaurateur who went on to open several Nick’s Fishmarkets on the mainland and other restaurants here.

Nick’s in Honolulu has had several owners, including Nickolas, Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and Randy Schoch, who owns Hawaii’s Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Romano’s Macaroni Grill restaurants as well as other restaurant concepts on the mainland.

Dowling has a long history with Nick’s, starting in 1979 under Bowlen’s ownership; again under Schoch, and he returned again in 2000 after a long stint with Fred Livingston’s restaurant group. He said he is hopeful that the bankruptcy process will benefit the restaurant.

“There is still a possibility of reopening,” he said.

“We just won three awards in the last two months,” he noted, including one from Zagat Survey and two from local publications

The Nick’s Fishmarket in Wailea at the Fairmont Kea Lani is separately owned and is not affected by the Honolulu closing, said Aaron Placourakis, president and chief execu1tive officer of Tri-Star Restaurant Group LLC, which owns the Maui restaurant and several others.