Maui Business

“Rita’s” Restaurant to Occupy Former Lulu’s Kihei Location

June 7, 2013, 2:32 PM HST
* Updated June 10, 10:29 AM
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By David Kvasnicka

Bar area of Rita's. Courtesy photo.

Bar area of Rita’s. Courtesy photo.

Goodbye Lulu; hello Rita.

After being vacant for a year, the former location of Lulu’s upper-level bar at the “Triangle” in Kihei is to be occupied by Rita’s, a steak and fish restaurant.

Rita’s touts itself as a restaurant that will serve fresh and hand-make just about everything, down to the mayonnaise. Their specialties will be prime rib steak and Maine lobster.

Owners Steve Warsh and Rana Mukherjee say they’re still waiting on their liquor license, which they had expected by today, but are still anticipating opening to the public on June 12.

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In the meantime, the new venue will host one or more invite-only nights as a warm up, according to an employee.

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The tree-top location was known for its breezy, open-air (but roofed) upstairs atmosphere, which looked out over South Kihei Road, Kalama Park, and had a partial view of the ocean.

However, previous owners struggled to get the formula just right regarding the menu, and each eventually closed.

Warsh, the managing partner of the two owners, says that this time, an emphasis will be placed on making Rita’s prices affordable for the level of quality, particularly for locals. He says a kama’aina discount will be offered, though the exact amount has yet to be determined.

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Warsh expects Rita’s to generate revenues of $250,000 per month, and will keep costs low by minimizing management staff.

The former Lulu’s location was the prime suspect of the neighborhood’s frequent noise complaints, which in March, 2012 led the Liquor Commission to propose a 10 p.m. “entertainment ban” for the Kalama Village (aka “Triangle”). Following spirited arguments by Triangle business owners, and promises to keep the noise down after 10 p.m., the proposal was dropped, pending a six month review and frequent monitoring.

Six months came and went, but in the interim, Lulu’s closed in June of 2012, and the noise issue hasn’t arisen since. Some posited that the height of the venue amplified the noise.

But that will likely not be a problem this time around, with Rita’s planning to close every night at 10 p.m.

Dinner entrees will be in the $25-40 range, lunch $13-22. Warsh expects well drinks to be around $5 but says his bar managers are still working out pricing. The bar will feature 12 taps of almost exclusively locally-made and craft beers.

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