Restaurant concept won’t be forced into Paia, developer says

With veteran rock ‘n’ roller Gene Simmons as one of its partners, Paia merchants and residents have mixed feelings about the new Rock & Brews restaurant and bar concept rolling into town.

“The main concern Paia has (is its) character and charm. We are worried that an addition of a business like this will be a boon of change in Paia,” said Rose Potter, executive director of the Paia Merchants Association.

While maintaining she has nothing personal against the restaurant and is not favoring other businesses, Potter said she and others are concerned about how the new business will fit in. Merchants’ worries are fueled that the restaurant will be “loud.”

“It seems kind of startling in Paia,” she said.

But Rock & Brews partners and developers say the restaurant isn’t going to be blasting Simmons’ Kiss music, and they say the restaurant is designed to blend in with the character of Paia. It will not be a “cookie cutter” version of the other Rock & Brews restaurants, which are located in Redondo Beach, Calif., and El Segundo, Calif., as well as one in San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico, near the southern tip of Baja California.

Plans call for the restaurant to be family-friendly, said Rock & Brews founding partner Michael Zislis, a California resident.

All of the chain’s three restaurants have a children’s playground and bench seating for families. And the Paia restaurant also will have those amenities, officials said.

Zislis, who has four children under the age of 5, said that the restaurant gives parents the opportunity to grab a beer and be able to take the children out for a meal without having to hire a baby-sitter.

“It really worked out well for us,” he said of the concept.

Zislis said the restaurant is family-owned and not a franchise.

The Maui restaurant includes managing partners Chrystie Blietz, who is Zislis’ sister; Blietz’s husband, Mark, who is a local farmer; and Maui resident Mark Cameron.

The group is aiming to open the restaurant by the end of the year, Zislis said. It will be located next to Charley’s Restaurant along Hana Highway in the old Jacques Bistro site.

According to information provided by project manager Bill Frampton, the project’s cost is estimated at $435,000, and it involves the refurbishment and renovation of the former restaurant. Costs are “more economically feasible” because it involves refurbishing and renovating an existing restaurant, not working from a blank slate, and much of the typical infrastructure needed is already in place at the restaurant’s planned location at the Paia Town Center.

The 3,585-square-foot restaurant will also be smaller than the old Jacques eatery, which had 3,760 square feet. The new restaurant will accommodate 155 people.

Frampton, of Maui-based Frampton & Ward LLC, said that he initially shared Paia merchants’ concerns about the restaurant possibly being disruptive. But after meeting with Zislis and his family, he said he was confident “that we had an opportunity to demonstrate how this restaurant can be built to be compatible with Paia’s unique sense of place.”

“This is not going to be a ‘cookie-cutter’ restaurant from the Mainland and forced into Paia,” Frampton said in an email. “Instead, the design has been calibrated and modified by professional Maui architects and (a) Hawaiian artist and cultural adviser to become part of the multilayered fabric of Paia.”

Also, instead of having Mainland rockers coming into town, there will be an image change to include Hawaiian musicians, he said.

Frampton added that the initial “fire-engine-red steel building” design posted at the old Jacques restaurant is not what is being proposed now. Instead, in a rendering provided by Frampton, the revised design shows a one-story building with wood details and planters out front.

County Department of Planning Director Will Spence said that the developers have worked with the Planning Department to change the project’s design to fit in with the town’s plantation-era architecture. Paia is in a business country town-zoned area with specific guidelines for building design.

Spence said that the developer has presented the project to the Urban Design Review Board.

“As far as design, we’re good on that,” he said.

The business still needs to get other permits, including building permits, Spence added.

To be a good neighbor, Zislis said that the restaurant will have more than the number of restrooms required and will allow anyone to use them because he understands there is a lack of restrooms in Paia town.

Paia merchants located near the proposed restaurant said it could have positive and negative effects on the town’s business area.

“I think it’s got to be better than an empty, dilapidated building next door,” said Leah Honma, co-owner of the neighboring Paia Tattoo Parlor. “I guess it might sound a little selfish, but having a place there, for us, has got to be better than nothing.”

Katharina Kurth, manager of nearby Oceania Maui, agreed, calling the existing site an “eyesore.”

“I think most people want to see something there,” she said. “It’s been sort of a dead zone, and we want something to bring people over to this side.”

However, both store managers said that they were concerned about how the restaurant will fit in aesthetically with the surrounding shops and what its effect might be financially for other eateries.

“A lot of people are wondering how this might affect Charley’s,” Kurth said of the restaurant and bar located next door to the new restaurant. “They’re pretty similar in what they serve so it’s surprising that they’re bringing in another restaurant. Usually you can’t put two jewelry stores next to each other.”

“I can see there being a little competition between Charley’s,” Honma said. “But they’ve been around for so long so I think they’ll be OK.

“We’re happy either way.”

* Staff Writer Chris Sugidono contributed to this report. Melissa Tanji can be reached at