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Friday, November 3, 2000

Courtesy of Group 70 International Inc.
An artist's rendering shows Dave & Buster's
restaurant at the Ward Entertainment Center.
The eatery would be located adjacent to a
16-screen theater complex.

Dave & Buster’s
is game for new
Ward complex

The recreational-themed
Houston restaurant chain has
leased space at the new
$40 million Entertainment Center

By Tim Ruel

A new kind of eatery -- one that offers pocket billiards, shuffle board and simulated miniature golf -- is coming to Hawaii in August and taking up a major chunk of the planned Ward Entertainment Center in Kakaako.

Art Dave & Buster's, a Houston-based chain of large-scale restaurants that emphasize games and activity as much as dining, this week leased space from landowner Victoria Ward Ltd. for a 40,000-square-foot restaurant.

Retail analyst Marty Plotnick, who's been to a Dave & Buster's in Chicago, said he was struck by the level of noise and excitement at the outlet.

"Saturday night is a revolution in Bosnia," he said.

Victoria Ward said it hopes the new addition will complement the Ward Entertainment Center's anchor, a 16-screen movie theater, and boost business for the company's more than 135 retail tenants along Auahi Street.

The restaurant will seat 350 people, but its entire entertainment space will hold a total of 1,350 customers. Dave & Buster's said it appeals to business meetings, adults and families with children, with an average customer age of 33 years. Menu items include pizza, sirloin steak, ribs, catfish and pasta, and prices range from $6.50 to $16.95.

Dave & Buster's Inc. operates 26 restaurants in the United States and hopes to open four more every year, according to Securities & Exchange Commission filings. It most recently opened a 60,000-square-foot complex in Pittsburgh.

The company plans to hire up to 250 people in Hawaii, said Bryan Spain, the company's vice president of real estate and development.

"Honolulu has been on our target sight for a pretty good while," he said, noting that Victoria Ward's willingness helped the deal.

Details of the long-term lease were not disclosed. Dave & Buster's typically signs 20-year leases, according to SEC filings.

Consolidated Theatres in June leased its 86,000-square-foot movie megaplex from Ward for $35 million, according to public documents. The theater is on target to open Memorial Day.

Mitch D'Olier, chief executive of Victoria Ward, said Dave & Buster's brings the 156,000-square-foot entertainment center up to 80 percent leased.

Although the private landowner has letters of intent from other would-be tenants, Victoria Ward is no longer in a hurry to find occupants for the center.

"The critical mass is starting to help us," D'Olier said yesterday. "We're gonna take our time to try to build the coolest place for all of us."

D'Olier would not identify prospective tenants, but said Ward was looking for retail, entertainment and food. The company broke ground on the $40 million plaza in June.

When the theater and Dave & Buster's open next year, the big challenge will be parking, D'Olier said. Ward plans to provide 1,500 new stalls, underneath the theaters and temporarily at the site of the former JaJa Fashions on the corner of Ala Moana and Kamakee and Auahi streets.

Even with more spaces, the key is getting people to know where the spots are, D'Olier said. To that end, Ward will advertise, hand out maps and hire guards.

Retail analyst Plotnick agreed parking was a vital detail. "Dave & Buster's is a zoo." Traffic is another consideration, he said.

But Ward's traffic flow may improve in the next few years, thanks to a state agency's decision earlier this week to extend Queen Street to Waimanu Street, connecting it with Piikoi and Pensacola streets. The Hawaii Community Development Authority has wanted to realign Queen for years, but didn't finalize plans until Ward and another nearby landowner agreed to give a combined 1.3 acres to the state for a park.

In the meantime, Ward will be watching Dave & Buster's for one year of operation to gauge its success. D'Olier said he hopes the uniqueness of the eatery will build interest among a broad spectrum of customers.

"To date, the game venues in Hawaii are more game venues for children."

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