Following more than a year of speculation, it looks like the final moves in the shutdown saga of Anna Bannana’s have been made.
As was first reported in this space on June 18, the Moiliili watering hole was taken over by local businessman Bill Comerford, who also runs the Irish Rose Saloon, Kelley O’Neil’s and O’Toole’s Irish Pub as E&J Lounge Operating Co. After assuming day-to-day operations at Anna’s in March and signing a new 10-year lease on the property, the bar’s liquor license was officially transferred at the end of June — effectively changing the name of the bar to Anna O’Brien’s.
"The actual transfer was approved on (June) 17," Comerford confirmed on Tuesday. "There was paperwork that still had to be filed … (so) we picked up our license on the 29th."
Former owner Jim Nielsen, who subleased the land the bar sat on from the Tina DeBoer Long Trust, also confirmed that the deal took place, but he didn’t seem too happy about it.
"I would have been a little happier if they had been more straight up about it," Nielsen said about landowner Bishop Estate and his desire to keep Anna Bannana’s at its current location. "What I’d been told was that they were going to tear the building down … so that’s why I didn’t dump a ton of money into (remodeling) it."
Nielsen added that he is holding onto the Anna Bannana’s name and logo with hopes of reopening at a new location sometime next year.
In the interim, however, it appears some people didn’t get word about the changes. Fliers on Facebook describe a concert tonight at the bar as an "Anna-Versary" and the "41st Jubilee of Anna’s," despite the fact that the bar has changed hands.
Comerford called the incorrect characterization a "miscommunication" between the bar and the promoter behind the show, but didn’t appear to be too concerned with the situation.
"We’re calling it the ‘Anna-Versary’ because we’re trying to continue the tradition," he said. "It’s a little awkward, but it’s not meant to be malicious in any way. So if people are continuing to use the (old) name, it’s out of familiarity."
Still, the confusion will continue for the foreseeable future since Comerford is still hiring contractors and getting building permits before starting renovations.
"I would love to close tomorrow and do my work," Comerford said. "What people don’t understand about Hawaii is that one of the hardest things about doing business (here) … is trying to get the business open, because you’re jumping through so many hoops.
"I’m trying to coordinate with Kamehameha Schools and my contractors," Comerford said. "When I come to that point, that’s when I’m going to have to shut down. If I shut down now, I might not be able to reopen for six months, but if I wait for approval, I may just be closed for a month."
That waiting game means local bands still have a venue to play at for the time being, no matter what the bar is called. (Comerford said he also hopes to continue the tradition of live music at Anna’s even after renovations are complete.) Tonight’s "Anna-Versary" will feature sets by Painted Highways, Shopping List, Falcon Lord, Mano Kane and Sergie Iglesias; doors open at 9 p.m. for those 21 and over, with a $5 cover charge in effect …