Brasserie Du Vin is Closing—What’s Next?
Brasserie Du Vin owner David Stewart talks about closing the restaurant.
After nearly nine years in business, Brasserie Du Vin will be closing its doors at midnight Saturday, Jan. 31. The popular French-inspired wine bar and bistro announced on social media networks Tuesday night it would be closing. The abrupt news was a surprise to many, because the restaurant seemed successful, having collected multiple awards through the years (including Hale ‘Aina Awards for Best Wine Program and Wine Spectator Magazine’s Award of Excellence).
Owner David Stewart (aka The King of Chinatown) says he decided it would be too expensive to keep running the business with a 51 percent rent increase, after a lease dispute with the Plumbers and Fitters Union, which owns the building. The union did not return a call for comment.
“We found out on Monday afternoon that the judge ruled against us,” Stewart says. “The issue was that I didn’t give them 120 days notice before the end of the first five years to tell them I was staying.”
In the past few years, a number of Chinatown businesses have closed their doors including thirtyninehotel, Indigo, Rakuen Lounge and Mercury Bar. Stewart says it’s a sad day for Chinatown.
“It’s a struggle down there to make money. It’s been 20 years I’ve been playing the game,” Stewart says. “People think we do so well on First Friday; it’s lucrative, but you can’t live off one day of sales.”
Stewart says he has no plans to open a replacement restaurant, but he does plan to be at Du Vin every night before it closes. If you’re in downtown Honolulu this week, stop by Brasserie Du Vin for half off all drinks—from handcrafted cocktails and top shelf brandys to $499 bottles of French red wine—until closing time.
Stewart opened Du Vin in 2006, because he wanted to recreate his favorite European travel experiences. He renovated the space formerly occupied by Harbor Lounge, adding European-inspired furnishings and decorating the walls with vintage artwork from his collection. Though there’s no word on what’s going to be taking over the space, we caught up with Stewart to reminisce about Du Vin and find out about his plans for the future.
The Baked Brie stuffed with pecans and dried cranberries, wrapped in golden puff pastry and topped with Mānoa honey.
HONOLULU Magazine: Any favorite memories?
David Stewart: I thoroughly enjoyed running it. It started off as a wine bar, but people couldn’t get the concept and they wanted to make reservations. And they morphed it into a restaurant from a wine bar. That was probably the mistake I made, I should have kept it as a wine bar.
Everybody tells you that’s where they meet their girlfriends and wife—and that’s why I do these things. I just loved to create the ambiance that made people keep coming back.
I’ve still got Bar 35 and eleven44. I am basically getting out of the restaurant business. I’ve done this for too long. With the lovely restaurant, I thoroughly enjoyed it, but people in Hawai‘i didn’t understand it.
Right now, I’m living in London. I’m renovating my mother-in-law’s house. I’ll see what I want to do.
What would you like to see take over that spot?
I would love it to continue to be what it is. There are a few people calling me and asking about it. Some people might be able to get a deal with the landlord.
Did you ever consider selling Du Vin?
A while ago I thought about it, but I overvalued it. You can’t sell something if you don’t have a good lease.
What about selling Bar 35 and eleven44?
Have a favorite memory from Du Vin you’d like to share? They’ll be posting photos and favorite memories on their website. Email submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read More Stories by Diane Lee