Maui Business

Iconic Kula Lodge sold to 5 Palms owner, Simon Vojdani

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Kula Lodge. Courtesy photo

The iconic Kula Lodge & Restaurant and Kula Marketplace are now under new ownership and management by Simon Vojdani. Vojdani is the owner of 5 Palms Restaurant, which was previously situated on Keawakapu Beach in South Maui for 27 years.

Operations of the new Kula Lodge will be overseen by Simon, CEO, and his daughter, Stephanie Vojdani. 

“Simon has long been an icon in the restaurant industry, having owned/operated over 95 fine dining restaurants throughout the country since 1969. In 1995, he and his family planted roots on Maui with the opening of 5 Palms Restaurant, which became one of the longest-operating restaurants on the south side,” according to the announcement. The 5 palms was best known for its fresh seafood, hospitality and expansive views.

“We are thrilled to be the new owners of the iconic Kula Lodge and have exciting things planned for the property, beginning with new menus and upgrades for the restaurant,” the new owners announced.

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Other future changes to the property will include a pool area with fire pit, a viewing deck and upgrades/ renovations to the existing five chalets. “We’d like to keep the charm of the lodge while giving it a bit of a facelift,” said Stephanie Vojdani. “We plan to bring the property to its true potential without losing its unique, historic essence.” The Vojdanis also want to put more emphasis on weddings and special events at the site, which offers incredible views and a picturesque backdrop of the island. 

The lodge was previously owned by the late Fred Romanchak since 1984. Fred passed away July 30, 2022 and is survived by his wife, Susie, who was the creative force behind maintaining the stunning gardens all these years, according to the announcement. 

It was important to Fred that the property remain with local owners. “We are honored to be the ones to carry Fred’s torch,” said Stephanie, who hopes that the upcoming changes to the property would make him proud. 

While the lodge is currently open for breakfast and lunch until 2:30 p.m. daily, dinner service and happy hour are not scheduled to begin at the newly owned Kula Lodge until around mid-November. 

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Immediate changes will include dinner service, happy hour, a sushi bar, the famous 5 Palms-style brunch until 2:30 daily, and a kamaʻāina discount. 

“We hope that the Lodge will become the new, favorite hangout and go-to special occasion spot for our kamaʻāina,” said Stephanie. “Being part Hawaiian and having grown up here on Maui, it’s so important for me to support local and to ensure that our new venture be a place to bring the community together.” 

The revamped restaurant will feature an 80% scratch kitchen with a farm-to-table concept consisting of 90% local produce, created by Executive Chef Raul Bermudez, who has remained with the brand. “We are so excited to continue to work with Chef Raul,” said Simon. “He’s truly a genius in the kitchen and we are blessed to have had him as part of our family for so many years.”

Bermudez was an Executive Chef at the previous Embassy Suites in Kāʻanapali, Executive Sous Chef at the Kea Lani Resort, Executive Chef at the Sea Watch in Wailea (now Gannon’s), and has also owned and operated three of his own restaurants including RB Black Angus Steakhouse, Big Wave Cafe and Kahana Sands Bar and Restaurant.

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Homero Costilla, a previous manager of 5 Palms in Kīhei has been named Director of Operations for the new Kula Lodge. Costilla has successfully operated several restaurants in the Dallas, TX area, including: Tallywacker’s, El Fenix and Razoo’s Cajun Cafe before joining the 5 Palms ʻohana. 

Joining the restaurant management team with a notable promotion is Richard Clark, known as “RC,” who, is also a past manager of 5 Palms. Clark will act as the restaurant’s official sommelier, having achieved an impressive level 2 certification. He previously worked at the 5-star, 5-diamond Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel before moving to Hawaiʻi in 1986 and managed at Longhi’s in Wailea before joining the Kula Lodge this year. He also has a background in farming, having worked 12 years at O’o Farm, where he grew a diversity of all-natural culinary crops and spearheading a lucrative ag-tourism industry with their lunch and coffee tours since 2007. Clark is excited to share his vast knowledge of wine with an all-new, wine list to complement the new menus coming to Kula Lodge this November. 

Also part of the restaurant management team is Meghan Hurley, who worked at Vana, the Yacht Club and Cafe O Lei Catering before finding her home at Kula Lodge. Meghan moved to Maui from New York, where she worked in chain restaurants like Friendly’s and Applebee’s since age 16. 

The 15% off kamaʻāina discount (on entrees) is available as of Oct. 31, 2022. Check the 5 Palms and Kula Lodge Facebook pages for further announcements and updates, or call the front desk for more information at 808-878-1535. 

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