Zanzabar owners buy
Matteo’s in Waikiki

Matteo's Italian Restaurant in Waikiki has been sold by long-time owner Fred Livingston for an undisclosed amount. The buyers own Zanzabar nightclub, across Seaside Avenue from the restaurant in the Waikiki Trade Center.

"The happiest day in a boat owner's life is the day he buys a boat. The second-happiest day is when he sells it," Livingston said. His happiest day, by extension, was in 1985 when he purchased the restaurant from the late Matteo Jordan, its founder. Jordan was a California restaurateur who brought his concept to Hawaii in 1972.

Matteo's lease in the Marine Surf Hotel was set to expire in October and Livingston did not want to sign another long-term lease "so I put it up for sale," he said.

The nightclub owners expressed interest, "gave me a lot of money," Livingston said, and they will take over May 1.

The buyers plan to build synergies between the restaurant and nightclub.

After May 1, Matteo's diners 21 and older will receive a free pass to Zanzabar, which will waive the usual $10 cover charge. Zanzabar clientele will receive coupons for a rotating selection of freebies from Matteo's, such as an appetizer or dessert, a spokesman said.

The trend of upscale restaurants turning into after-hours nightclubs is getting a bit of a twist with this business combination.

Matteo's will remain an upscale restaurant with slight modifications to freshen its appeal.

The restaurant's upscale heritage and close proximity to the club was the main draw. If it had been a first-class restaurant that was miles away, it wouldn't have been the same, the Zanzabar spokesman said. The new owners will keep the staff of about 40, including Russell Druce, who is general manager.

"They're buying the name and the menu and I expect they'll keep it pretty much the same," Livingston said.


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