Thursday, June 3, 1999

Associated Press
Wolfgang Puck prepares to put one of his signature
pizzas into an oven at Wolfgang Puck Cafe in
Los Angeles in 1997.

Celebrity chef
seeks pump house site

A Kakaako developer is given
four months to secure a deal
with the Wolfgang Puck firm

By Jerry Tune


Wolfgang Puck, the cuisine legend who feeds the Hollywood movie stars, is considering opening an 11,000-square-foot restaurant in the state's historic former Ala Moana sewage pump station in Kakaako.

The Hawaii Community Development Authority yesterday gave developer Richard Weiser four months to get a lease commitment from Wolfgang Food Co. of Santa Monica. Other deadlines also were set, including a financing commitment by Jan. 31, 2000.

If all goes well, the restaurant would open June 1, 2001.

Musician Henry Kapono had planned to put a night club and restaurant in the pump station, but Weiser said he could not get financing for the project in Hawaii or on the mainland.

The blend of a Wolfgang Puck trendy restaurant in an historic building of bluestone, built in 1900, may appear to be a difficult fit, but Weiser told the authority board that the latest Puck restaurant in Denver, Puck's Grand Cafe, is "toned down considerably" from the colorful tradition in earlier Puck restaurants. The Grand Cafe is a lower-priced version of Spagos restaurant in Los Angeles.

Plans for the pump station project call for construction of a "neutral shell" to tie together the three existing bluestone structures, and a wall along Keawe Street to be used for a produce market where local farmers can bring their crops to sell on a consignment basis from stalls.

That's part of phase two, when it is deemed feasible, Weiser said.

Weiser said Puck wanted to come to Hawaii and likes the pump station site because he can build a free-standing restaurant along Ala Moana Boulevard in a highly visible place for local people and tourists coming from the airport to Waikiki.

He said the prices will be "medium to upper medium" and designed for residents and tourists. The restaurant will include a sushi bar.

Weiser will be meeting soon with Irv Seigal, Puck's development director, in Honolulu.

A final decision on the restaurant will be made by Puck's executive committee.

"We have spent $200,000 on architectural and engineering fees (on the previous proposal) and some of that will be lost forever," Weiser said.

But he said the opportunity to bring in Wolfgang Puck is exciting.

The Kakaako authority, which last sought development proposals two years ago, acknowledged that slow economic times made it difficult for developers to move ahead.

However, the authority required Weiser to come up with an additional $25,000 in earnest money and to start paying the minimum rent of $7,500 a month on Jan. 1, 2000. For the 17 months before the restaurant opens, Weiser would be required to pay $127,500 in rent.

Weiser is a Charleston, S.C.-based developer who has done residential projects in Hawaii. On the mainland, in places such as Maryland and Florida, he has done shopping centers.

The authority board approved the extra time to get the new project under way, but board member Walter Kupau said he didn't want Weiser to ask for more extensions.

The restaurant would rely on valet parking, but may also ask the authority for adjoining land to park cars. Weiser had sought that land for the previous project but said he won't ask again until he has the Puck deal signed.

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