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Owners, staff hope for revival of Bob’s Big Bear

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Bob’s Big Bear Diner, a sort of reincarnation of the long-lamented Bob’s Big Boy in Mapuna­puna, has closed.

But its owners and staff hope to revive it.

"Some employees want to get together to reopen closer in to town," said Joseph Hu, an owner and attorney who had represented the restaurant ownership in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Parent company Bob’s Family Restaurant 2 Corp., filed for bankruptcy reorganization in September after its Wai­pahu Town Center landlord, Wai­pahu LLC, moved to evict the restaurant for lease payments that were in arrears.

The restaurant closed and ceased operations on Nov. 16. It had opened in January and at its peak had more than 50 employees, Hu said.

This week in bankruptcy court, the debtor was dismissed and the case was terminated, court records show.

The classic American-style diner, patterned after its predecessor, Bob’s Big Boy, also served Hawaii-style dishes in the former Sizzler restaurant location.

The space was too big, Hu said. "The rent, and more importantly the utilities, which were equal to the rent, just killed us."

The old Bob’s Big Boy space was "substantially smaller," and the area’s demo­graph­ics are very different from the predecessor’s Mapuna­puna restaurant traffic.

The popular Mapuna­puna diner closed after a fire in April 2009, sending regulars clamoring for information as to when it would reopen.

In an August 2009 "Kokua Line" column, Hono­lulu Star-Advertiser columnist June Wata­nabe reported on some reasons behind the reminiscence.

Bob’s Big Boy offered a slice of Americana with its 1950s malt shop favorites and "Big Boy" icon, which greeted customers at the door, she wrote.

She quoted Hu as saying, "The Big Boy has a little dust on it, but it’s alive and well."

Regulars were lured to the restaurant with dishes such as Big Boy Double Decker Burgers and thick milkshakes, after which "local favorites such as oxtail soup and the Sumo Boy Burger were added to its menu," she reported.

The restaurant first opened in 1975 as part of a chain established by Bob Wian in Glendale, Calif. A hui called Bob’s Big Boy of Hawaii bought the restaurant in 1991, Hu said at the time.

The Big Boy disappeared and made way for the Big Bear at the Wai­pahu location.

Because the Bob’s Big Bear employees are out of work, it is hoped that a new location can be secured and opened within the first quarter of 2015, Hu said.

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