Whalers Brewpub to close; rock club planned in its place

A new rock ‘n’ roll bar and grill could open in late 2004, as a team of developers has plans to renovate the current site of the Whalers Brewpub (which is expected to close in late December).

The establishment would be named “Harry J’s,” and be located at Kauai Lagoons on a site recently acquired by Alexander & Baldwin (A&B) and venture partner GolfBC of Vancouver.

The club could become the anchor tenant in the redevelopment of the shopping complex formerly known as Fashion Landing.

Harry J’s would accommodate 1,000 patrons with a sound-proofed, fully equipped restaurant away from the stage, a state-of-the-art sound system, a proscenium stage, a dance floor, multiple bars, balconies and VIP areas.

One of the developers, Harry Witz, a resident and businessman in Chicago, first came to Kaua‘i six years ago.

Witz is President of db Sound, LP, and is a design consultant for Electro-Voice, Inc.

He met local resident and retired attorney Jim Wheatley, who at the time was tending bar at Stevenson’s Library at the Hyatt Regency Kaua‘i Resort & Spa, but had been the designer and manager of several highly successful clubs on the Mainland before moving to Kaua‘i 14 years ago.

Wheatley and Witz have spent six years researching and formulating their plan.

“Our goal was to make something that would be the most unique concert setting in the nation, with breathtaking views, something that would give the local and visiting patrons and artists unforgettable images to remember,” said Witz.

In addition to Witz and Wheatley, local development talent to help with design includes: Honolulu attorney Alan Sakai as Harry J’s legal representative; Princeville architect Colleen Romano; and contractor Curtis Law from Kaua‘i.

Noted local executive chef Scott Lutey is the consultant on kitchen and menu design.

Michael Olsen of Sleeping Giant Realty is handling the business lease acquisition. Financial models and business plans are from the accounting firm of Krol & Associates out of Chicago.

Aron Levine, vice president of production and distribution for House of Blues Worldwide, is a full-time advisor and part owner of Harry J’s.

Also in the club, there will be patio dining, a retail store, a multi-track recording and broadcast studio, an in-house lighting system with intelligent moving lights, video-image magnification and programming, parking and outdoor area for tented events, luxury hi-tech dressing rooms, a backstage loading dock, office space, and secure storage areas.

Events will include concerts, some featuring local bands; talent nights; dance-club nights; corporate events; catered functions; and film and video screenings. Shuttle vans to and from the local resorts will provide convenience, said Witz.

The design theme for Harry J’s is a Pacific outpost, said Witz, with a “corrugated roof, weathered floors and ceiling fans” to create “a rustic setting. We are decorating it with my own private collection of rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia from the past 25 years, and various artists have been kind enough to donate items as well.

“Guitars, picks, drum sticks, passes, jackets, gold albums, everything, from the biggest stars in music,” will be on display, he explained.

“And it will be presented in a much more interesting way, so patrons can take a journey and actually learn a little rock ‘n’ roll history along the way. Kind of like a museum.”

Witz has created and supplied the sound equipment and technology for many of the world’s largest concert tours, international theater tours, and corporate events.

A few of the bands Witz has worked with include The Rolling Stones; Aerosmith; The Allman Brothers Band; Black Crowes; Guns & Roses; Kiss; Mary J. Blige; Prince; The Promise Keepers; Snoop Doggy Dog.

In addition, he has done sound design and installation at five House of Blues establishments, and also worked on a Riverdance.

Witz’s most recent event of note was Harley Davidson’s 100th anniversary concert with the Doobie Brothers, Tim McGraw, Kid Rock and Elton John.

“At the present time, there is absolutely no other venue on Kaua‘i where top-name entertainers can perform with the technical support that they are accustomed to. Harry J’s will become a very hip place to play,” said Wheatley.

“We will feature the widest range of entertainment from this stage that one could imagine. “From the greatest in blues and R & B to the most prominent names in Hawaiian entertainment. We also will work with the unique needs of the Kaua‘i community, for charity events and special functions,” said Wheatley.

“Business is booming in Kaua‘i,” said Witz. “Tourism doubled in the past four years. Kaua‘i needs this kind of place, and we want to create a legacy that will be known around the world.”

Business Editor Barry Graham may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or mailto:bgraham@pulitzer.net.

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