Erika Engle

Kona Brewing Co.
restaurant is bound
for Koko Marina

It's a big year for Kona Brewing Co., with plans to expand and a new distribution deal with Anheuser-Busch that's expected to increase market share.

The Big Island-based company will open a restaurant and bar in Koko Marina Center in September, to replace Akasaka, a Japanese restaurant that closed last year.

Kona Brewing Co. Managing Partner Mattson Davis figures he'll have to buy a new boat to go with the slip included in the lease, which goes for 10 years with two five-year options.

The 7,000-square-foot space has 5,000 square feet under roof and 2,000 outdoors, which will allow for 275 seats. Kona Assistant Manager Jeremiah Neal has been named general manager for the new location, which will hire 70 full- and part-time employees.

The Kona Brewpub can hold 165 customers.

"The Hawaii Kai location will not have a brewery. There's not enough square footage in a commercial space like that to make it pencil," Davis said.

There will be a brewpub feel, as the decor will include equipment from the company's purchase of Maui-based Tradewinds Brewing Co. in 2000.

The pub will serve its draft beers from a 24-tap system, offering Oahu its first taste of some varieties the company's brew sold only at the Kona brewpub.

On Wednesday, Kona Brewing Co. began brewing its 1,046,250th gallon of beer, Davis said. That's enough to fill more than four Olympic-size pools.

The Koko pub, as it's called internally, will offer the same gourmet pizzas, sandwiches, salads and other fare as the Kona pub, with an average check of $15.

Kona Brewing is boosting the capacity of its Kona brewery to meet projected demand. The Kona kitchen is also undergoing a $50,000 expansion.

The new owners of Koko Marina Center, Koko Marina Holdings LLC, "recognized us as a junior anchor and really made it a lot easier for us to take that risk and move to another island," Davis said.

The area's demographics also provide reason for optimism.

"I think the demographics are phenomenal. There are 75,000 people in an eight-mile stretch of coastline and the average income is $106,000 per household," he said.

Leasing agent Cheryl Lau, vice president at CB Richard Ellis Hawaii, expects it to be a popular draw.

"There's no place right now within the community where people can really go and have a good time. It's casual, they can just kind of hang out, right on the water, so we expect it'll become a very popular place," she said.

The Kona Brewing Co. name is familiar in the state, in California and Japan. In Hawaii it claims 35 percent of the craft beer market, having grown by 15 percent in 2002. Sales in California grew 251 percent last year, from 1,500 barrels to 4,500 barrels.

Davis expects more growth, as distribution of Kona Brewing Co. products changed hands earlier this month.

"Instead of being one of 20-plus beers at Paradise (Beverages), we're one of five" with Anheuser-Busch Sales of Hawaii, he said. Anheuser distributes its own brands, plus Kirin, Red Hook, Widmer, and now, Kona Brewing Co. products, he said.

Anheuser-Busch owns an interest in Widmer, which bottles Kona Brewing Co. beer for the retail market under Davis' direction.

"By letting us into the network, they're helping their investment and giving more profits to their distributors," Davis said.

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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