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Monday, May 20, 2024
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Cohn to Open Two More Eateries in Next 2 Months

San Diego-based restaurateur David Cohn is making his first foray outside of the county to the Hawaiian island of Maui.

The restaurant, to be called Pineapple Grill, at Maui’s Kapalua Resort, is scheduled to open in early June and will be No. 10 for his 22-year-old Cohn Restaurant Group.

On the heels of the Hawaiian venture, Cohn also plans to open Island Prime, his 11th eatery, on Harbor Island in early July.

“Doing two at once is not the way I’d choose,” Cohn said. “But both are unique opportunities. They came along at the same time and have similar parallels.

“Both were built in the 1970s and both were extremely successful, then went into a period of decline.”

Island Prime, which will feature steak and seafood entrees, was formerly known as Reuben’s. Cohn, 52, said his company has spent more than $2 million to remodel the 8,000-square-foot facility on Harbor Island Drive.

“That’s in the mid- to high-end compared to what we’ve spent to (remodel) other restaurants,” he said. “Things are getting more expensive.”

Cohn said the total investment, including remodeling construction to open the Pineapple Grill in 7,500 square feet of space with a view of the Pacific Ocean, would be about $2 million. However, the property’s landlord, the Kapalua Resort, chipped in $750,000 of that sum.

He said the new eatery’s menu would feature “contemporary Pacific Island cuisine with an emphasis on fresh Hawaiian seafood.”

He projects the 220-seat Pineapple Grill’s sales during its first year of business to be roughly $3.5 million and to “go up to around $5 million annually in the next five years.”

He declined to cite projected sales for San Diego’s Island Prime, however, saying, “I’d rather not put numbers on that because it’s too close to home.”

Among Cohn’s restaurants are four in the Gaslamp Quarter , Blue Point Coastal Cuisine, the Gaslamp Strip Club, and Mister Tiki Mai Tai Lounge, all on Fifth Avenue. His Dakota Grill & Spirits is also on Fifth Avenue, atop Rox, a bar and dance club. Altogether, he counts about 900 employees at the company’s nine operating restaurants and one nightclub.

Cohn said plans to open Pineapple Grill took about two years to finalize and that his company currently has no other expansion plans.

“But we’re always looking,” he added. “I think we’ve gotten to the point in our development where we can pick and choose more carefully, and look for those special properties that offer great potential.”

Cohn said his “sweat equity” partners in the Pineapple Grill venture are the restaurant’s executive chef, Joey Macadangdang, and its general manager, Chris Kaiwi, both well known in Hawaii for their culinary and restaurant experience.

The Pineapple Grill will be among several food and beverage venues on the 23-acre seaside Kapalua Resort, which includes three 18-hole golf courses and the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, the Kapalua Bay Hotel and private homes.

But David Cole, the chairman, president and chief executive of Maui Land & Pineapple Co. Inc., which operates the Kapalua Resort, said the Pineapple Grill “will be in a prominent location at the Bay Clubhouse.”

The Bay Course, which includes the clubhouse, is a 6,600-yard par-72 course designed by legendary golfer Arnold Palmer.

Before leasing the Pineapple Grill facility to the Cohn group, Cole said he sent some of the firm’s executives to San Diego to “go to all of their restaurants.”

And what he learned, he said, is that, “They offer an extraordinary array of dining experiences and quality of product.”

Maui Land & Pineapple Co. is traded on the American Stock Exchange under the symbol MLP.

The company’s stock closed at $39.97 per share on May 11, up from $39.25 a share the day before.

According to a Maui Land & Pineapple Co. press release dated in mid-January, “Kapalua Resort is undergoing a significant transformation as we reposition the destination at the pinnacle of the Hawaiian hospitality industry.”

Those plans, according to the January announcement, include razing and rebuilding the Kapalua Bay Hotel to make way for a property that would include lodging accommodations, condominiums, vacation homes and a spa.

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