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A New Owner Woos Longtime Romantic Favorite Michel’s at the Colony Surf

After a 20-year run, Andy Anderson sells Michel’s.


Michel’s at the Colony Surf

Photo: Aaron Yoshino

Reader favorite and Hale ‘Aina Award winner for most romantic restaurant, Michel’s has been swept off its feet by Japanese suitor Watabe Wedding Corp. The Jan. 18 news struck fear in the hearts of romance lovers, but there’s hope that the magic will continue. 


The rumors of an elopement had made Michel’s fans anxious, but tremors in the markets put the deal temporarily on hold. “We live in a world where an election comes and goes, and people back off on making an investment,” said Anderson in late October. But in January the negotiations resumed, and news broke that the sale was going through.


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“The sale is basically a done deal,” says Anderson. “It’ll probably happen in March. There are conditions on selling a business with over 50 employees, so after you negotiate and you finally come to terms, the employees have to be given 60 days’ notice. We’re going through that process now.”


As for the fate of Michel’s, lovers young and old can heave a tentative sigh of relief. Anderson says the restaurant’s new owners plan to keep things as they are, only better. “The staff is going to stay on. The deal that we have, we will close one night under our ownership, then open the following morning with the new owner in place, and all the employees in their same jobs, with all their earned rights.”


It’s an arrangement that was important to Anderson. “We’re only as good as the gang has been. We’re successful only because of them.”  


For Anderson, the end of the run is bittersweet. He recalls buying the restaurant sublease in bankruptcy almost 20 years ago: “It had gone downhill. It had been a fish house. We stepped it up and remodeled and we are where we are today.” He’s looking ahead to a new challenge, a Waikīkī venture that’s still in discussions.  


“I guess I like challenges, and hurdles, and I like solving problems, and I like work,” he says. “I’m kind of a workaholic. To take something from nothing and build it into something is satisfying, it says that you’ve got the brains and ability.


“Success is the measurement,” he concludes. Judging by years of successful proposals and anniversaries, Anderson can rest on his laurels.


Read More Stories by Don Wallace


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