Thursday, June 14, 2001

Surt’s up on Kauai,
down on Big Island

The two Big Island restaurants bearing the first name of chef Surt Thammountha have closed, much to the surprise of their namesake.

It was obvious in a phone call from TheBuzz that Thammountha, now a chef at Restaurant Pier 7 in Honolulu, had not heard the news.

Surt's at Volcano and Surt's by the Bay in Hilo closed June 4, as did the Steam Vent Cafe. The three establishments are owned by Chalet Kilauea Group LLC, and principals Brian and Lisha Crawford, along with Surt's by the Beach in Haena on Kauai.

"They're closed? I didn't know," Thammountha said, "It seems like the business was going pretty good." He said he was sad to learn of the closures.

Neither of the Crawfords were available for comment, but said in a statement last week that the restaurants had incurred huge losses.

Brian Crawford told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald the company suffered some $500,000 in losses since the beginning of last year, an amount representing the equity the company has in its core lodging business.

He expressed thanks to the 10 full-time and 30 part-time employees who learned of the closures and their unemployment Monday June 4.

Thammountha entered a partnership with the Crawfords in the late '90s, after the couple dined at Longboards Cafe, a Honolulu eatery Thammountha owned and operated, but which has since closed.

He said it was too hard traveling between the Big Island and Oahu to oversee Longboards as well as Surt's at Volcano and the Steam Vent Cafe.

Homesick, he left his partnership and revenue sharing deal with the Crawfords almost two years ago, he said.

Surt's by the Bay in Hilo opened only six months ago, but Thammountha said he had no problem with the continued use of his name.

"No, I wasn't concerned at all," he said.

Surt's by the Beach, opened for lunch and dinner in the old Charo's restaurant in Haena some 15 months ago, remains open.

However, a restaurant employee declined comment on whether they had been alerted to any impending change in the restaurant's status.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin.
Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle,
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached

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