Surfers complain about new Kakaako venture

Surfers complain about new Kakaako venture

KAKAAKO (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new venture that replaced the John Dominis restaurant in Kakaako is creating quite a stir. 53 by the Sea, which includes wedding chapels, a restaurant and a bar, recently held its soft opening. Now complaints have come up about parking problems.

53 by the Sea sits right on the waterfront, offering a breathtaking view of Diamond Head. The $16-million project includes two chapels, an Italian restaurant and a bar. The facility is near a parking lot for Kakaako Waterfront Park. Frustrated bodysurfers said contractors and workers have been taking up the stalls for months.

"When they started building this structure, the construction guys came in and they used half the parking," said bodysurfer Doug Palama.

"You have the workers for the restaurant, not only the restaurant, but for the wedding chapel. They got their portrait teams. They try to park in here. They don't want to go over and pay for their parking," said bodysurfer Mike Kaaukuu.

A spokesperson for Ocean Investments, the Hawaii affiliate of Japan-based Takami Corporation, said the company has always respected the neighboring facilities.

The company released this statement, "We have instructed our contractors and employees, as well as valet hired for recent private events, that when parking their vehicles, they should utilize a nearby private parking lot leased by Ocean Investments."

But a bodysurfer called the police during private events held nearly two weeks ago after he claims guests' cars were parked in public stalls.

"The valet was trying to sneak the guys in. They did, and they had some valets who actually told me that it was approved and they confronted some police and told them it was okay," said Palama.

However, Ocean Investments maintains the vehicles were parked only in the leased parking spaces. The complaints prompted a recent community meeting. A spokesman for the Hawaii Community Development Authority said one of its employees would need to see the violation or someone would have to a file a formal complaint.

"They really don't have the facility to enforce it so the public has to step forward and make sure that they get the police to move the vehicles or to report things," said Wayne Takamine of the Kakaako Makai Community Planning Advisory Council.

Only dinner service is currently being offered and reservations are required. Ocean Investments plans to lease additional land for employee parking and will offer complimentary valet parking for restaurant patrons.

Ocean Investments said it's paying the Office of Hawaiian Affairs roughly $300,000 annually to lease the land. The project's name reflects the building's address which is 53 Ahui Street.