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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 6, 2006

Saratoga Buzz's closes after 39 years

By Lynda Arakawa
Advertiser Staff Writer

Buzz's Steak & Lobster manager Jace Green tends the bar while longtime customers Barb and Don Rychnovsky, of Muskegon, Mich., enjoy the eatery for the last time.

JOAQUIN SIOPACK | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Buzz's opened in the Ohana Reef Lanai in 1967.

JOAQUIN SIOPACK | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Don and Barb Rychnovsky sat at the bar at Buzz's Steak & Lobster last night, drinking what would be their last mai tais at the Waikiki restaurant they've enjoyed for eight years.

After hearing that Buzz's would be closing last night at that location, the Michigan residents made sure to go to the restaurant every night since they arrived here Monday.

"We just love it here," Don Rychnovsky said. "It's just a great restaurant, good atmosphere. You always run into nice people. A lot of them we've made friends with over the time. ... We're losing all our old eating places."

Buzz's, which was established in 1957 and has been in the Ohana Reef Lanai since 1962, is the latest business to close to make way for Outrigger Enterprises' $460 million Waikiki Beach Walk redevelopment project. The project, which began last spring, includes hotels, restaurants and retail businesses.

The project will redevelop 7.9 acres along Lewers Street, Beach Walk, Kalia Road and Saratoga Road. A luxury condominium tower is expected to replace the Ohana Reef Lanai and other area properties.

"What can you say time to go, time to go," Buzz's owner Jarin Vit Udom said with a gentle smile. "But it's been very good years for us.

"To be honest with you, it's a good thing because the building is getting very old. ... The sad part is that a lot of customers support us for many years, and they won't see me anymore at this location."

Udom, who took over the restaurant in 1998, said he is working with Outrigger and another company to find another Waikiki location for the restaurant. He hopes to reopen a Buzz's in the area within a year and has been collecting customers' e-mail addresses in a book near the restaurant's entrance so he can notify them when it reopens.

But for now, many customers said they were sad to lose the restaurant decorated with touches of Old Hawai'i, from a canoe chained to the ceiling, to lauhala walls and old photographs.

"I know it's old, but that's sort of the fun part, I think," said 62-year-old Ohio resident Nicole Blohm, a Buzz's customer for four years. "It's not real modern and real plush. It's more like home."

Jack Lloyd, who manages the Hale Koa parking garage, has eaten lunch at Buzz's about once a week for 11 years and considers Ubom a friend.

"You know, I came in here for lunch for the last time today, and I got a little choked up about it," he said. "I may have to leave before the end of the night. I might be just too choked up."

The restaurant will auction off much of its equipment and other assets tomorrow morning, with a preview at 8 a.m. and auction at 10.

Reach Lynda Arakawa at larakawa@honoluluadvertiser.com.