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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, January 16, 2010

Fisherman's Wharf to get facelift

by Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Bob Lee, owner of Pizza Bob's in Hale'iwa, has won a lease from the state for the Kaka'ako property that formerly housed Fisherman's Wharf restaurant.

DEBORAH BOOKER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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The owner of Pizza Bob's in Hale'iwa is taking over Fisherman's Wharf restaurant in Kaka'ako with plans to restore the run-down eatery overlooking Kewalo Basin.

Bob Lee, who founded Pizza Bob's more than 30 years ago and until recently also operated Rosie's Cantina in Hale'iwa, was the high bidder to lease the property from the state for up to 15 years.

Lee's Advance Restaurant Management will take over the two-story building March 1, but it likely will take months to determine how much renovation work will be needed to return the nautical-themed building to shipshape condition.

"It's going to need some serious work," said Bob Miller, operations director for Advance Restaurant.

Miller said the company was looking to open another restaurant after the closing of Rosie's in August, and viewed Fisherman's Wharf as an opportunity because of the building's visibility, the harbor view and parking.

"We're very excited about opening a restaurant there," he said. "We want to bring it back to its former glory as a place that people get to enjoy again."

Miller said a name, theme and menu for the restaurant haven't been determined because it's not clear yet how far changes to the building will go. Current lessee Nittaku Investment Inc. also owns the Fisherman's Wharf name, so the new restaurant may have to adopt a new name.

The rough concept is to have a casual restaurant on the ground floor open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Upstairs, the idea is to have a more upscale restaurant, Miller said.

Fisherman's Wharf was established in 1952 by local restaurant conglomerate Spencecliff Corp. Tokyo-based Nittaku bought Spencecliff in 1986.

Over the decades, the Fisherman's Wharf restaurant property was routinely offered for lease to the highest bidder by the state. In 1979, Spencecliff submitted a winning minimum rent bid of $2.4 million for a five-year term.

For more than a decade, however, the property has deteriorated as the state included the site in various Kaka'ako makai redevelopment plans that fizzled. During that time, Nittaku has been on a month-to-month lease. Most recently, the property was home to The Living Room at the Wharf, a nightclub that closed in October.

The Hawai'i Community Development Authority, the state agency overseeing the site, set minimum rent at $15,000 a month to take over the property as-is. Two bids were received.

A clause in the lease allows for the agency to terminate the lease with one-year notice to allow for redevelopment. In that case, any unamortized improvement costs would be repaid to the lessor for any assets lost to redevelopment.