Makawao Steak House has new owner

Upcountry eatery to be transitioned into a farm-to-table restaurant

Hoku Nui Maui plans to transition Makawao Steak House into a farm-to-table restaurant using meat and produce grown on its 258-acre “regenerative farming community.” Hoku Nui Maui photo

Hoku Nui Maui plans to transition Makawao Steak House into a farm-to-table restaurant using meat and produce grown on its 258-acre “regenerative farming community.” Hoku Nui Maui photo

WAILUKU — The four-decade-old Makawao Steak House will be transitioning into a farm-to-table restaurant with locally grown meat and produce supplied by its new owner Hoku Nui Maui, company officials said.

The land management group appeared Wednesday in front of the county Liquor Control Commission in a preliminary hearing on its request to receive a general license for liquor and live music. The group took over operations Feb. 1 from Cafe O’Lei, which had managed the longtime restaurant since 2012.

“We know that the steakhouse has a very local clientele, and we want to keep it that way,” said Joshua Chavez, director of operations. “We want to keep serving the Upcountry community anytime of the week, not just for special occasions.”

Plans call for using the group’s 258-acre “regenerative farming community” to supply the restaurant with food, Chavez said. The farm, located around the corner from the restaurant and mauka of St. Joseph Catholic Church, has 250 head of cattle, a thousand chickens and a number of sheep — all free range and pasture grazing.

“As we go throughout this year, we’re going to start adding products on the table,” he said, noting the first new items to appear on the menu will be in the second half of the year.

The restaurant is retaining its historic name and the vast majority of its workers, Chavez said. He said that the steakhouse and farm have about 25 workers each.

Chavez said he is friends with the previous owners and called it a “friendly transition.” He clarified that the live music for the restaurant would be a solo performer playing dinner music.

He added that the farm also produces honey and eggs, which are sold at the farm. The eggs also are sold to wholesalers.

The group has plans to eventually grow fruit trees and vegetable crops.

“This is an outlet for where we can provide local food to our community,” Chavez said. “One way is our farm stand, but we also wanted to provide food locally and not have to ship it out anywhere. The opportunity with the steakhouse was there, and it seemed like the perfect fit right around the corner.”

While the group continues to develop its farm and livestock, the 5,500-square-foot restaurant will partner with local suppliers for food on the menu. The ultimate goal of the farm is to grow, raise and produce as much of the menu as it can, Chavez said.

“We’ll kind of grow what we need at the restaurant, or vice versa, we’ll serve what we can grow,” he said.

In other business at the commission, Maui Beach Hotel was given less than 30 days to complete an acceptable application for a new liquor license before its temporary one expires next month.

The Kahului hotel returned to the commission Wednesday for a third extension of its temporary hotel liquor license, which expires April 13. Officials of the 64-year-old hotel have been seeking a license since losing it in July.

Wailuku attorney Craig Nakamura, who represents the hotel, said they have not submitted their application for a new general license, citing difficulties with its food-and-beverage operator D.H. Investment Inc. He said that the manager of the investment company has not filed his tax returns for 2015 and has held up the hotel’s process of completing its application. He added that his office and the hotel have repeatedly tried to communicate their need but have been unsuccessful.

Commission Chairman Robert Tanaka asked if the hotel could find another operator, but Nakamura said that the hotel has not discussed that yet.

“I don’t know about this guy. Maybe he’s not a responsible person?” Tanaka said.

After deliberating in executive session, Tanaka said that the commission could not give a third extension on the hotel license, but proposed that the hotel continue to obtain a general license. Tanaka said that the commission would grant a temporary license for 120 days after the hotel submits an acceptable application for the general license.

“It behooves the applicant to get off his okole and submit the application before our next meeting,” he said. “If he has not submitted the application before that, he cannot sell alcohol.”

Before the end of the meeting, Wailuku commissioners Stephen West and William Kennison were honored for their service. They will vacate their seats March 31 due to term limits.

Makawao commissioner Dana Souza nominated Tanaka and Darren Lopez to be re-elected as chairman and vice-chairman, respectively. The two were unanimously approved.

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@mauinews.com.

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