The New Face of Paddlers

New ownership shifts bar philosophy.

By Léo Azambuja

Just a couple months ago Paddlers’ Inn changed ownership. The new owner, Kamuela Kamakana, has already made it clear that the long-standing restaurant and bar will be more emphasized toward families.

Since Kamakana took over the business, he has already implemented several changes; new kitchen and bar equipment, new furniture, new patio covers, and new computer system. The floors will be redone soon, and the bathrooms will go through renovations.

The menus have already changed. Paddlers has three chefs, and everyday there is fresh fish available on the menu. The fish “are literally brought in by the tail,” Kamakana said.

But perhaps the biggest change might just be in the heart of the business. “I really want it to be more like a family oriented place where families can enjoy their meals together.” Kamakana said.

“The main thing is that this is a restaurant, a place to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Kamakana said. But the bar will still be open until 1 a.m. There will still be karaoke nights, concerts, and fundraisers too. Recently Paddlers sponsored a poker tournament on Tuesday nights, and bingo on Sundays.

One of the main concerns that Kamakana has is safety. For that reason he said there will be “zero tolerance” on loitering in the parking lot. He said that if people insist on hanging out in the parking lot, the police will be called.

Kupuna now receive a 20 percent discount just by showing their senior citizen card, and kamaaina will enjoy a 10 percent discount. Even snow birds will benefit from a 10 percent discount.

Kamakana is also planning on accepting take out orders in the future. Customers would call in, place an order, and give a description of their cars. Cameras installed in the parking lot would show when customers arrive, and their orders would be brought up straight to their cars.

On Wednesday nights is Ohana Night at Paddlers. Each child that comes in with his or hers family leaves with a book. In the short time Kamakana has been heading his business, he already distributed about 8,300 to children.

Kamakana was raised between Kaneohe and Seattle, but his family lineage can be traced back to Molokai over a century ago. Hanging on one of the walls, there’s a picture of his great-grandfather Bill Kamakana, dated 1913. On another wall, there are pictures of his grandfather Henry Kamakana Sr., and his uncle, Henry Kamakana Jr., a decorated former tennis pro.

About five years ago, Kamakana was visiting Maui when he decided to hop the Molokai Ferry and came to the island for the first time. He said he felt an emotional connection with the island. The next day he bought property here.

Kamakana’s mother, Haunani Kamakana, is a Molokai girl, who now lives in Washington State. But he said that as soon as he finishes building his house in Kamalo, the local wahine will return to the island.

Molokai’s newest restaurateur has never worked in the restaurant business and will have his work cut out for him. But he is not short of help. The first-time restaurant owner boosted the staff to 43 employees, from only 11.

“It has been challenging,” Kamakana said. But those who already had a chance to visit the new Paddlers can already see positive changes. For those who haven’t been there yet, it’s worth it to check it out, and bring the whole family.


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.