Start of a new era


POSTED: Friday, January 15, 2010

The Fisherman's Wharf restaurant sits at the edge of Kewalo Basin, faded and worn, like a forlorn ship and a testament to better days gone by.

The state has put the restaurant's lease up for grabs in hopes that a new operator will restore it to its former glory. Bids are due to the Hawaii Community Development Authority, which owns the land and building, by 2 p.m. today.

HCDA is offering the two-level, 7,441-square-foot restaurant for a seven-year lease, starting March 1, with two options to extend four more years, for a total of 15 years.

It's seeking a minimum rent of $15,000 per month.

Nittaku Investment Inc., the current tenant, has for years been on a month-to-month lease. Its night club, the Living Room at the Wharf, closed Nov. 1.

“;It's an iconic location,”; said HCDA's executive director, Anthony Ching. “;It's falling into disrepair, and that's because there's no incentive on a month-to-month basis. While we certainly expect there will be development or redevelopment in the area, I think it's safe to say, with this economy it's not going to happen tomorrow.”;

So HCDA is offering 15 years, but the lease has a cancellation clause, in which it would issue one year's notice of plans to take back the building to redevelop the area.





        Fisherman's Wharf restaurant:

» Size: 7,441 square feet, two levels
        » Address: 1011 Ala Moana Blvd.
        » Landowner: Hawaii Community Development Authority
        » Lease terms: March 1, 2010, to Feb. 28, 2017
        » Information:


The lease also has restrictions and requirements—alterations and interior renovations are allowed, but not the demolition of the building.

HCDA, which took over management of Kewalo from the Transportation Department in March, is also requiring minimum service to include lunch and dinner. Breakfast is optional.

The menu and decor also must celebrate the unique history of Kewalo Basin Harbor, including its association with fresh seafood.

The Fisherman's Wharf restaurant was at one time the place to be, with a sparkling view of the harbor.

Spencecliff Corp., which owned several old-time Honolulu favorites, ranging from the Tahitian Lanai to the Ranch House, had the best run with Fisherman's Wharf restaurant from the 1950s to the 1980s.

Chantal Weaver, daughter of Spencecliff co-founder Spencer Weaver, says her father opened Fisherman's Wharf on April 1, 1952.

It was a nautical-themed hangout where servers knew your name and where kids got a special menu that looked like a diver's mask.

The restaurant's first level, called the main deck, offered a “;Seafood Grotto”; and “;Snug Harbor Bar,”; where fishermen used to hang out. Upstairs, on the “;Captain's Bridge,”; the showcase was the “;Mermaid Bar.”;

“;The feeling was that you were on a ship,”; said Weaver, who grew up at the restaurant and was just a toddler in some of the photos she kept.

Entertainment included Brother Noland, while specials included the Chioppino Italienne, a stew of clams, fish, lobster, shrimp and crab.

Spencecliff sold its restaurants, including Fisherman's Wharf, to Nittaku in 1986.

Chris Colgate, chairman of the Hawaii Restaurant Association, categorizes Fisherman's Wharf as an icon of old Honolulu but says it hasn't been a big player in the last 15 years.

The restrictive terms of the lease might make it hard for any restaurateur to bid for it, he said, especially in this economy. It would be a big undertaking, he said.

Plans for the renovation of the Kakaako waterfront overall have remained in limbo since 2005, when Alexander & Baldwin pulled out of its $650 million project, which originally included three high-rise residential towers.

A master plan is finally in the works for Kakaako Makai.

Part of the reason for the delay is that HCDA must work with the Kakaako Makai Community Planning Advisory Council (CPAC), which took two years just to draw up its vision and guiding principles.

HCDA envisions an open marketplace at Kewalo, along with a fish auction once again. Ching says the Kakaako waterfront has the potential to become another site like Granville Island in Vancouver, British Columbia.

But HCDA is making sure it gets community input before proceeding with any plan. It's best to “;measure twice and cut once,”; as Ching puts it.

Developer and former state Sen. D.G. “;Andy”; Anderson has floated several ideas for the Kewalo waterfront over the years—among them a Ferris wheel, an FAO Schwarz in the Fisherman's Wharf area and a trade center with Hokule'a-style sails.

But none ever came to fruition, and Anderson says he doesn't believe any ever will under the state agency.

“;Waterfront development is not rocket science,”; said Anderson. “;(It) has been done all over the country, all over Europe. We're behind the curve.”;