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Ola Brew Eyes New Venue

March 30th, 2023 by Michael Brestovansky, Hilo Tribune Herald

The former Wainaku Executive Center may become a restaurant in the next five years, according to plans by owner Ola Brewing Company.

The Hawaiian Ola Brewing Corporation has submitted to the county Planning Department an application for a special management area use permit to renovate the 12,000-square-foot building to house a micro-distillery and agricultural processing facility, in addition to a restaurant and bar area seating up to 60 people.

According to property tax records, Ola Brewing purchased the 10.9-acre parcel on which the Center sits in 2022 for $7 million from its previous owner, the Edmund C. Olson Trust. The Trust itself purchased the property in 2012 for $7.7 million, and began attempting to sell the site in 2014 without success for nearly a decade.

The application requests that Ola Brewing be granted five years to redevelop the site via a four-phase plan estimated to cost $2 million. The first phase will entail the interior redesign and renovation necessary to convert the building’s first floor, including its current three-car garage, into a facility to process, ferment and distill ti leaves into the traditional Hawaiian spirit okolehao. That facility is anticipated to become fully operational during phase one.

The second phase will consist of grading and excavation along a hill on the building’s west side. With the venue expected to receive 185 guests per operational day — the bar would be open Tuesday through Saturday, while the restaurant Friday and Saturday only — the renovation will require the installation of a new parking lot.

The application anticipates the excavation of 12,000 cubic yards of soil to make way for 27 new parking stalls — about 10,000 cubic yards of which would be transported to a farm outside of Papaikou also owned by Ola Brewing.

Ola Brewing will also install a new septic tank system to accommodate greater wastewater capacity. Wastewater would be hauled to the Hilo Wastewater Treatment Plant weekly and will not be disposed of onsite.

During the second phase, Ola Brewing may also demolish a concrete flume structure on the site, one of the last vestiges of the site’s previous life as a sugar cane mill and processing plant. According to the application, an archaeological survey identified other remnants of the mill as worthy of preservation — including an old train tunnel that will be converted into an okolehao cellar — but the significantly degraded flume poses a risk of collapse.

The third phase will convert the building’s second floor into a restaurant space, with most of the building’s current offices removed. The restaurant is also anticipated to open for service before the completion of the final phase, which will open a bar and tasting space on the second floor.

The application also includes several studies of the site that conclude that the project will have no significant impact on indigenous or endangered flora and fauna, or on any Hawaiian cultural sites.

The Windward Planning Commission will decide whether to approve Ola Brewing’s application at its next meeting April 6.

Representatives for Ola Brewing did not provide comment.

Email Michael Brestovansky at

Hilo Tribune Herald

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