A diving suit was among the items on auction yesterday at Trattoria. The restaurant and other businesses closed down to make way for Outrigger Hotels' redevelopment project.

Buyers snap up
Lewers restaurant

The end of an era was evident yesterday on Lewers Street, as artwork and memorabilia joined tables, chairs and kitchen equipment at auctions of four closed restaurants.

Gone to the highest bidder went an antique gas pump turned into an aquarium, circa-1918 underwater diving suit, harpoons, fishnets, anchor chains and other nautical decor from Davey Jones Ribs.

Susan Hunt snagged more than 70 signed photographs of celebrities that hung on the walls of the Trattoria, including autographed mugs of Muhammad Ali, Elvis, Richard Chamberlain, Pat Morita and Hawaii sumo wrestler Musashimaru, also known as Fiamalu Penitani.

Hunt said she was surprised that her self-imposed limit of $1,000 landed the entire collection, which she's giving to her husband, Greg, for their 35th anniversary.

A California man who frequents the Waikiki Broiler when on vacation bought the restaurant's sign that notes "Happy hour is 6 a.m. to 7 p.m." and brass railings from the bar.

Auctions at the Trattoria, Davey Jones Ribs, Perry's Smorgy and Waikiki Broiler attracted an eclectic mix of longtime customers, auction junkies and curious observers.

The giant moving sale on the street is making way for the Outrigger Hotels and Resorts' $800 million Waikiki Beachwalk-Lewers Street redevelopment project.

Demolition is about to begin, forcing the shutdown of about 89 businesses, many of which are already gone. The hotel chain plans to replace the five low- to mid-rise hotels and surrounding retail businesses with a single high-rise tower, open space and a complex of shops, restaurants and entertainment with a parking garage.

The first phase of work begins next month in the block bounded by Beach Walk, Lewers Street, Kalia Road and Kalakaua Avenue. The Ohana Edgewater, Ohana Coral Seas and Edgewater Lanai will be torn down, while the Ohana Waikiki Village, Ohana Reef Towers and Ohana Waikiki Tower will be renovated.

A second phase of work in the block bounded by Saratoga and Kalia roads, Beach Walk and Kalakaua will raze the Ohana Reef Lanai and Ohana Royal Islander, replacing them with a single, 898-room hotel tower.

Ohana hotels are the Outrigger chain's budget-priced hotels.

Waikiki resident Victor Amiel picked up a few items from the Trattoria and Davey Jones auctions, both for his own use and to resell on the eBay auction site. He remembered sitting at the Davey Jones piano bar in the 1950s when it was known as a good place to look for dates. "There was a lot of romancing that went on in here," he said.

Amiel said he approves of Outrigger's plans to upgrade the area. "I'm really pleased with all that's going on in Waikiki," he said. "I think this will create something similar to Aloha Tower."

Chris DeCosin, an activities desk agent, has worked for the Outrigger chain since 1996. He called Outrigger's renovation plans "long overdue" for buildings that were built in the 1960s. "It's really gonna be nice, Hilton Hawaiian Village-style," he predicted.

Outrigger employees displaced by the closing of the Ohana Waikiki Tower, Ohana Reef Towers and Ohana Village will fill in at other Outrigger and Ohana hotels, DeCosin said.

"It needed to be done. These are old buildings," agreed Cisco Valeho, who worked as a bellman at the Ohana Reef Towers until January, when he transferred to the Ohana Waikiki Tower, which closes Thursday. He's not sure where he'll be assigned next, but he knows he has a job.

Vit Udom was waiting at 2 p.m. for the start of the auction at Perry's Smorgy, where he hoped to pick up an air conditioner. The auctions yesterday had a particular poignancy for Udom and his wife, Annette, because their restaurant, Buzz's Steak and Lobster Waikiki, at 225 Saratoga Road, will have to relocate in two years when the second phase of the Outrigger project displaces them.

Udom said he figures that after the reconstruction of the area, monthly rents will run closer to $85,000 or $90,000 instead of the $20,000 a month he's paying now. That's going to price out the small businesses and leave only corporate chains in the running, he said.

Fred Livingston, owner of the Trattoria and Davey Jones Ribs, said he was depressed yesterday about the change coming to Lewers Street though he also understands it. He's looking for a new location for the Trattoria, but decided to make a clean sweep of its contents and start over if he opens a new location.

"I don't think you could rebuild the nostalgia in another place," Livingston said. Because rents at the Outrigger's new retail buildings will be higher, "I think you'll see much of Lewers Street disappearing."

At the Waikiki Broiler, on the corner of Lewers and Kalia Road, about a dozen employees lingered yesterday afternoon after its auction, not wanting to let go.

"Most of us haven't even looked for other jobs, because we believe we will reopen somewhere else," said Linda Muschek, general manager of the bar and eatery for 33 years.

"It's been really hard. We've built a really close family here of coworkers and customers. We've always worked as a family," Muschek said. She estimated that the average time employees have worked there is 18 years.

Though individual employees have been approached by other restaurants, they hold out hope that owner Doug Salisbury will find them a new location -- together. "We come as a package, all 55 of us," said longtime employee Tina Green.

If anyone has an opening for a full restaurant crew or a lead on a location, call Muschek at 386-8836, she said.

On Wednesday, starting at noon, McClain Auctions will auction off the contents of the House of Hong restaurant and Buddha Bar.

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