Hawaii's Magoo's Pizza closes today
|Video: Magoo's Pizza closing, pizza wagons open|
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By Alyssa S. Navares
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Alyssa S. Navares
The University Avenue area will bid farewell to another longtime establishment when Magoo's Pizza closes its doors today.
Changing times and increased business costs led owner Gilbert Sakaguchi, 63, to the decision, which comes about two weeks after the Varsity Theatre, just across the street, closed.
"It's not easy running a business here in Hawai'i," said Sakaguchi, who noted a 25 percent rent increase this year. "I think it's time to move on and simplify the things in my life."
The near-decade-old restaurant and bar, in the Puck's Alley building at 1015 University Ave., is known for its 99-cent mugs and $5 pitchers of 100 varieties of draft beer.
Following the 55,000 mark in kegs the pub has served to the crowd of college and retiree customers, Sakaguchi hopes to exceed that number in pizzas, when he opens 10 Magoo's Pizza wagons on O'ahu this year.
The first wagon opened last month, while a second — located in the lot next to Puck's Alley — opens Friday. Pizza lovers in Kapolei will get a taste of Magoo's when a third wagon opens in two weeks.
Charlie Luce gets his exercise, and "a warm buzz," walking to Magoo's from his home in Waikiki.
"You can get pretty hot and thirsty walking here," 71-year-old Luce said as he sipped a mug of India pale ale at the bar, "so stopping at Magoo's is always nice."
It turns out there may be some good news for Luce and other Magoo's regulars.
Desert Isle Beverages is negotiating with landlord Kamehameha Schools to move into the Magoo's space and renovate it. Magoo's bartender-manager Nicholas Schlapak said he hopes to manage the new bar, which could open later this year.
"We're keeping the entire draft system," said Schlapak, who started working part-time after attending the University of Hawai'i-Manoa. "And we're staying to Gilbert's $5 pitchers and $1 mugs."
Kamehameha Schools spokesman Thomas Yoshida confirmed that the trust is negotiating with Desert Isle Beverages to take over the Magoo's site.
Kamehameha Schools also announced Wednesday it has purchased the Varsity Theatre and the adjacent Varsity Office Building.
The scent of Magoo's Thai pizza filled the air as chef Mike Chopwa pulled one from the oven.
"I make 90 pizzas every day," he said. Chopwa has taken the bus from Waipahu to Magoo's every morning for the past 13 years. "And then I go home with pizza sauce on my clothes, but that's what I love."
Chopwa is one of 30 employees following Sakaguchi to his pizza wagon business.
Sakaguchi founded Magoo's Pizza in Waikiki during the late 1960s. Nearly a decade later, 26 locations had opened in Hawai'i before he sold the chain to franchisees in 1982. The current location opened in 1998 when he returned to business.