An old North Shore landmark restaurant reopened earlier this year with a new name, a new look and three times as many seats. But it shouldn’t have.
Now a former state lawmaker who tried three times to become Hawaii’s governor is tangling with city and state officials for opening what is promoted as the largest restaurant in Haleiwa.
D.G. “Andy” Anderson reopened the former Jameson’s by the Sea restaurant in March as Haleiwa Beach House despite warnings from the city not to because renovation work was done without building permits.
The state Department of Health also has cited Anderson for expanding the restaurant’s seating capacity to 388 from 114 without enlarging a wastewater system, and is investigating whether the restaurant is polluting nearby Loko Ea Stream and fishpond.
Anderson said he hasn’t compromised public health or safety, and is close to resolving the issues.
“It’s going to work out,” Anderson said. “I’m very close to working it out.”
Some community members, however, suggest Anderson is flouting rules without repercussions.
“This has been bothering a lot of us out here,” said Blake McElheny, a North Shore Neighborhood Board member.
Maxx Elizabeth Phillips, policy adviser to state Sen. Gil Riviere (D, Heeia- Laie-Waialua), said the senator’s office has received close to a dozen complaints about the situation.
“Many in our community are concerned about wastewater issues, parking, lack of proper permitting and agency oversight and enforcement,” said Phillips, who is also managing director of community organization Malama Pupukea-Waimea. She added that Riviere is concerned and disheartened by Anderson circumventing rules concerning environmental and safety issues.
Anderson, onetime owner of the now-defunct John Dominis restaurant on the Kakaako waterfront, who spent 20 years in the state Legislature and served a two-year stint as city managing director in the mid-1980s, bought the real estate under Jameson’s for $2.4 million in 2010.
The acquisition was part of a larger Anderson plan to build an enlarged replica of the 1899 Haleiwa Hotel with 80 rooms on a piece of adjacent public land that he proposed buying from the city in 2010.
But many area residents fought the hotel plan and argued that the city should follow through with an old vision for its property, which was condemned more than 40 years ago, from Kamehameha Schools to extend the oceanfront Haleiwa Beach Park across Kamehameha Highway. After much debate and a community lawsuit that sought to block the contemplated sale, the city agreed to keep the property. That left Anderson with Jameson’s, which was established in 1982 in a building that dates to 1955.
Though Anderson owned the property, longtime Jameson’s operator Ed Greene still had a lease for the restaurant overlooking Haleiwa Harbor. That changed in September when Anderson took over from Greene and proceeded with his renovation plan.
The $2.4 million upgrade included new furnishings, new kitchen equipment and opening up what Anderson described as a hodgepodge of rooms into big open spaces with expansive ocean views. He also removed one of two kitchens and a gift shop in the old restaurant, which now employs about 115 people and boasts the best views in Haleiwa.
Anderson said drawing up plans and permit applications for the work was impractical because there were no blueprints for the old building to show where wiring, plumbing and other things might be in all the walls that he sought to remove.
According to building permit records, Anderson received two permits last year, but the city Department of Planning and Permitting said the work done wasn’t for what was permitted.
‘We followed the rules’
Anderson said he has worked with DPP on a regular basis changing plans as work went along and that he has a “courtesy permit” from the city that allows him to proceed with construction before permits are issued in part because DPP is overwhelmed with permit applications.
“We followed the rules and followed all of the plans,” he said.
DPP disagrees with Anderson’s contention about a courtesy permit, saying that Anderson received a courtesy inspection of the restaurant’s second floor prior to work being done and that he still should have obtained a permit to begin construction.
On May 3, DPP inspector Steven Wescott issued a violation notice to Anderson for work done without permits, including putting up a new sign. Wescott noted that DPP told Anderson on March 17 and 21 not to open until permits were obtained.
Haleiwa Beach House held a soft opening over the March 26-27 weekend.
Under DPP rules, Anderson has 30 days to correct the permit problem, which can lead to fines if not resolved. Anderson applied for two permits in March and May, according to records, and he said he will obtain necessary permits. However, in the interim DPP can’t prevent the restaurant from operating.
“We don’t have the authority to board up the restaurant,” said the agency’s director, George Atta.
Another problem Anderson is trying to work out is the wastewater issue.
Greene, the former Jameson’s owner, had installed a new septic tank and leach field system in 2013 with a variance from the Health Department. The system, according to a permit application, was sized to serve the restaurant’s seating capacity of 114 at the time.
A variance was required because the size of the restaurant’s lot isn’t big enough to comply with a lot size requirement for such a system, but the Health Department makes exceptions through variances for old restaurants that had systems that complied with rules at the time they were built.
The variance approval contained a condition that any future development or expansion of the restaurant that increases wastewater flow would require installation of a more costly wastewater treatment plant.
Anderson said he wasn’t aware of that requirement when he applied in September to add more septic tanks. He said a Health Department official responded with initial comments to his application that suggested his proposed expansion would work. But the department rejected his proposal in December.
According to Anderson, once he learned of the requirement for a treatment plant, he accepted it and began design work. Yet he decided to open the renovated restaurant with more than three times as many seats because he said the number of patrons so far doesn’t generate a wastewater flow beyond the existing system’s capacity.
He said the existing system can handle more than 114 patrons, and that it will take the new restaurant time to build enough business where capacity of the existing wastewater system becomes insufficient.
On May 12,the Health Department cited Anderson for the violation, and initiated water testing in the adjacent stream and fishpond to determine whether any sewage overflow is occurring.
Janice Okubo, a department spokeswoman, said an inspection didn’t detect any ponding or wastewater flow above or next to the system’s leach field that would indicate obvious system overloading.
Anderson said he needs two months of data from existing wastewater produced by the restaurant to properly design the treatment plant, which he expects can be installed in four to five months at a cost of about $400,000.
In the meantime, he said he is considering removing chairs from the restaurant to satisfy the department’s concerns about sewage overflow. Anderson said he could take two chairs away from many four-seat tables without affecting business because about 40 percent of those tables typically have only two customers.
“It doesn’t hurt me,” he said. “The chairs are occupying space but they’re not generating revenue.”
Anderson also told the Health Department a private seating area with 70 seats is not yet being used.
McElheny, the neighborhood board member, said Anderson clearly hasn’t followed the rules for renovating and enlarging the capacity of his restaurant.
“It seems clear that the vision for his property is too big,” he said.
McElheny added that Haleiwa Beach House is using the city’s neighboring property for parking.
Anderson said the public has long used the unimproved city property for parking without regard to whether they are going to the beach, the restaurant, the fishpond or other places.
Atta said DPP doesn’t calculate a new parking requirement for businesses that renovate without expanding a building’s footprint, though his agency is looking into the parking issue as well for Haleiwa Beach House.