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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 24, 2002

Military, business to mix at Hickam

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

Craig Walter has no idea what a Marine Corps "Wet Down" is, but he sure wants some of that business at his Dave & Buster's restaurant.

"All I know is that the military does it a lot," said Walter, who helps book special events for Dave & Buster's, a combination restaurant and adult arcade at the Ward Entertainment Center. "We want to host them, if we can."

So Walter will be staffing a Dave & Buster's booth on May 31 and June 1 at the first-of-its kind fair at Hickam Air Force Base. And so will more than 60 other companies trying to get more military business.

The idea by the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii is to get businesses better acquainted with the military.

"We're the only ones who bridge the gap between the military community and the civilian community," said Wally Zimmermann, the chamber's director of communications. "We have contacts on both sides. This is a way to put them together."

The businesses will pay $50 for a 15-by-15-foot booth area over two days.

The chamber isn't sure how many people with military identification will attend.

Some companies will try to make contact with officials who arrange big military contracts or make bulk purchases for the base commissaries, Zimmermann said. Others will be trying to attract rank-and-file airmen, soldiers and sailors.

Alex Petrenko, president of Ahtek Systems, wants to reach military personnel who live in apartment buildings. He hopes to get them interested enough in his high-speed Internet access service to persuade their civilian landlords to wire up the entire building.

Ahtek provides high-speed service without an Internet service provider but keeps costs down by signing up entire office buildings or housing complexes, Petrenko said.

"We believe that many members of the armed forces would like to have a high-speed access to the Internet so they can exchange or communicate with their family members around the world," Petrenko said. "At the show itself, we'd like to get exposure to the military because they often live in (off-base) multi-dwelling housing where this could be feasible."

Walter hopes the Dave & Buster's booth will get more individual military members to walk in to the restaurant — as well as plan their parties. He hopes to attract more "hail and farewell" parties that sailors throw when one of their own transfers out. And he sure would like to get more "wet downs," although he's not even sure what they're about.

(For the record, a Marine spokesman said a "wetting down" is a party thrown by a Marine who has gotten a promotion — a tradition that dates to the 1700s.)

Walter is sure Dave & Buster's will get more military business from the fair. But even if it doesn't, he's looking forward to the experience.

"I'm going to see 200,000 people in the military," he said, "all of whom protect me."

Reach Dan Nakaso at dnakaso@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8085.