Kai Eats and Drinks to open at former Bubba Gump space

  • Kai Eats and Drinks will open in the former Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. location on Alii Drive. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Kai Eats and Drinks will open in the former Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. location on Alii Drive. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Kai Eats and Drinks will open in the former Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. location on Alii Drive. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Kai Eats and Drinks will open in the former Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. location on Alii Drive. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — Months after Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. closed its doors at Waterfront Row, the company behind Huggo’s and Lava Lava Beach Club is making plans to open a new restaurant there, bringing a new local restaurant to Kailua Village.

“I think it’s great for Kona and Kailua, for Alii Drive to have so many unique restaurants, and you can’t find them anywhere else,” said Eric von Platen Luder, a principal of Luana Hospitality Group, which he owns with husband, Scott Dodd. “They’re all different. I think they all do a really good job of fitting into the niche market that they’ve chosen to go after.”

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At the end of last year, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. closed its doors at the Waterfront Row location where it operated for about 20 years. A Bubba Gump representative late last year attributed the closure to lease expiration, but did not go into detail.

The Kailua Village Design Commission is scheduled to consider this evening an application from Luana Hospitality Group to renovate the space for its new restaurant: Kai Eats and Drinks.

The hospitality company has also signed a lease with the Honolulu-headquartered Watumull Properties Corp., which owns Waterfront Row in Kailua Village.

Luana Hospitality Group’s other restaurants include Lava Lava Beach Club — with locations on this island and Kauai — as well as Huggo’s and Huggo’s On the Rocks, located toward the south end of Kailua Village, just before Royal Kona Resort.

And von Platen Luder said they’ve got something a little different planned for Kai Eats and Drinks.

“It’s a different perspective of the bay, different views, you’re a different closeness to the ocean,” he said. “It’s a really, really incredible spot.”

The restaurant will specialize in handmade burgers, pizzas and tacos with menu development underway, said von Platen Luder.

They’ve spent the last couple months experimenting with everything from pizza doughs and burger grinds, with a challenge to their chefs to develop innovative ideas for the new restaurant.

Depending on space, added von Platen Luder, they’re also hoping to have between 40 and 50 brews on tap along with a full bar. The restaurant will also maintain the location’s retail space for marketing logo wear.

Where possible, he said, they plan to use local suppliers and put local ingredients on customers’ plates.

The application filed with the Kailua Village Design Commission outlines planned renovations to the restaurant space, including replacing the makai windows and doors with roll-up screens, as well as replacement of guardrails at the retail entry and installation of new exit doors.

There won’t be any changes to the existing building area, its configuration, exterior seating or landscaping. The application also says the existing exterior building colors will stay the same, and any new work will be touched up with the exact existing paint colors.

Signage will go before the commission at a later time.

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“The exterior of the building is in great shape,” said von Platen Luder.

The restaurant should be able to open later this year and will employ somewhere between 100 and 130 people.

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