New Waikiki restaurant injects new life to slow economy

Dan Leonard
Dan Leonard
Angela Geronimo
Angela Geronimo

By Leland Kim - bio | email

WAIKIKI (KHNL) - An artist whose music is synonymous with easy living, island lifestyle brings his unique flavor to Hawaii. On Monday in Waikiki, Jimmy Buffett opened his 19th restaurant, the first in our state.

The grand opening and a traditional Hawaiian blessing took place Monday morning at the Ohana Beachcomber Hotel in Waikiki. The 2,100-square-foot restaurant can serve up to 500 customers. It celebrates the unique aspects of island lifestyle.

"Our brand really speaks to escapism and Waikiki really speaks to escapism," said Dan Leonard, president and chief operating officer of Margaritaville Management Group. "So there's kind of a nice marriage right there. Come to Waikiki to escape, to enjoy the beaches, the beautiful land, everything that has to do with it, and that's what our restaurant speaks to."

Some of the unique touches include a molten lava table at the bar. The restaurant is part of the hotel's $21 million renovation project. There will be live music every night featuring local musicians.

The Jimmy Buffett restaurant also injects new life into the local economy by creating several hundred new jobs. It's a fresh start for those trying to make ends meet.

Jimmy Buffett's mellow tunes have made a fan out of Heather Bevan. So, when she heard about his restaurant opening in Waikiki, she had to be here.

"My friends had gone to one, I believe in Mexico, and they were raving about it," said Bevan, who is visiting with her family from Alberta, Canada. "So we decided to come down and see what it was all about."

Angela Geronimo also raves about the restaurant. As one of the new employees, she jumps right in.

"I can't even express my excitement," said the Wahiawa native. "That's how exciting it is."

Geronimo is one of about 300 employees the restaurant hired. It's obviously a boost to the local economy and guess what? Most of the people who work here are from here.

Geronimo survived a tough 2008. Her husband lost his job and they were forced to cut expenses.

"When the economy went down a little bit, it kind of forced my family to, we really didn't have a big Christmas," she said.

Because of the economic slowdown, landing a job here was very competitive.

"We had couple thousand people come in who really wanted jobs," said Kerry Houk, general manager of Jimmy Buffett's at the Beachcomber. "So we had so many great people to choose from. We were able to take the best of the best even."

Geronimo says this opportunity has given her the ability to give more to her family.

"New year, new job, thinking positive," she said. "This year, we'll have a Christmas and I have a wonderful feeling about Jimmy Buffett."

The restaurant is open daily from 7:00 am until 1:30 am.