E&O Trading Co. closing


POSTED: Wednesday, February 25, 2009

E&O Trading Co. restaurant and bar will close after service Saturday, just shy of its fourth anniversary in Honolulu.

The closing of the 7,000 square-foot, 215-seat restaurant will send 42 people looking for work and will leave the second floor of Ward Centre, once a destination for dining and cocktails, with only one restaurant, Ryan's Grill.

From the 1980s through the 1990s it was a place to be seen, with the movers and shakers of business and politics often spotted in second-floor restaurants for meals and pau-hana cocktails. Social movers and shakers active in the nightlife scene also frequented the various eateries.

Compadres and Brew Moon closed in recent months leaving gaping holes.

The economy, declining foot traffic and lingering construction issues relating to parking at the Ward complex contributed to the decision to close E&O, said managing partner Kenwei Chong.

“;It became final yesterday morning after discussions with General Growth,”; and employees were notified, he said yesterday. “;We were getting ready to roll out a new menu next week.”;

Officials at General Growth Properties did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

“;The hardest part ... the staff is just so amazing ... putting 42 people into unemployment in this environment is the last thing we would have ever wanted,”; they were like family, said Chong.

The complex lost 200 parking stalls when Ward Village Shops closed in 2005.

“;When that went away we certainly felt it,”; he said.

The expectation was that “;parking was coming in 2007 or 2008. It never materialized and that hurt us.”;

A Star-Bulletin story earlier this month explained that the shell of a new parking garage remains in “;limbo,”; while the developer deals with contractor liens.

Chong focused on the positives. “;It's been a great experience, a lot of fun. We've served a lot of satisfied guests,”; including seven-day-a-week patrons who Chong only identified as Mark and Glenn.

In power outages after the 2006 earthquake and again in December, the restaurant continued to host guests, cooking with gas and serving by candlelight.

“;It felt like a real community,”; Chong said.

The closure will have no effect on the three California E&O restaurants, in San Francisco, San Diego and Larkspur, he said.

Another E&O opened in Lahaina in 2006, but closed in 2007.

The chain's founder is Chris Hemmeter Jr., son of the late developer who made a splash in Hawaii in earlier decades.

Hemmeter, Chong and Rodney Loo, “;both from longtime Hawaii families,”; are partners in the Hawaii restaurant, which also has other investors.