Thursday, June 7, 2001

New owner to
take over Kyotaru
in Waimalu

It will stay a Japanese restaurant
and all 63 workers will be
able to reapply for their jobs

By Russ Lynch
and Erika Engle
Star-Bulletin staff

Shortly after Kyotaru Hawaii Corp. closes its restaurant doors in Waimalu July 31, it will reopen as Gyotaku Japanese Restaurant.

All of the eatery's 63 employees will be offered an opportunity for employment with the new restaurant, according to Thomas Jones, general manager of Kyotaru and president of REI Food Service LLC, parent company of Gyotaku.

"Our expectation is that for the most part, the great majority of them will be hired," Jones said.

"Our intention is to continue to operate in a similar fashion, with a similar menu and format," he said.

Jones said it's possible Kyotaru will close one day and reopen as the new restaurant the next day. He would not disclose terms of the purchase, but identified his partner as Vice President Nobutaka "Tony" Sato, currently operations manager for Kyotaru Hawaii. State business registration records also show Shinichi Tsutsui as an officer in REI.

Kyotaru's only remaining property is Columbia Inn on Waialae Avenue in Kaimuki, which is for sale but has not yet been sold, said Terry Oshima, president of Kyotaru USA.

He said the restaurants had done well but the outside needs for the company dictated the sales. "They were doing better than when we took over," Oshima said, but "as the parent company goes, so go the subsidiaries. We have no control over that."

Real estate broker Barbara Ichishita, who handled the Waimalu transaction, said the Waialae Avenue location is in escrow, but declined further comment.

The company's Japan-based parent ordered its assets outside Japan sold as part of a bankruptcy reorganization, and its properties in Hawaii were put on the market in September. It had filed a petition in Tokyo bankruptcy court for protection from its creditors early in 1997.

The first of its restaurants to be sold was Columbia Inn on Kapiolani Boulevard. Servco Pacific Inc. purchased the restaurant in November and closed it Jan. 5 with plans to incorporate the property into its automotive business along the Kapiolani corridor.

Kyotaru, once one of the 20 largest restaurant chains in Japan, owned properties in Hawaii prior to its purchase of the Columbia Inn restaurants in 1986.

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