Indigo closes after 19 years in Chinatown
Honolulu chef Glenn Chu closed Indigo restaurant at the end of business Thursday, Aug. 29, after 19 years of serving Hawaii diners his Eurasian cuisine.
The once-popular Chinatown restaurant, nightclub and catering service couldn’t withstand financial troubles following a three-alarm electrical fire in March that resulted in an estimated $100,000 in damage to the building at 1121 Nuuanu Ave. and forced the business to shut down for several months.
“There were many things,” Chu said. “Certainly the fire, the recession. There are a lot of things that contributed to our demise.”
Chu reopened the restaurant in July, but monthly sales revenue plunged to $50,000, compared with about $120,000 a month prior to the fire. The chef also fell behind on general excise taxes payments because of the loss of income and as a result lost Indigo’s liquor license for a month. He got it back in August.
“Business never came back up,” said the soft-spoken chef, who was still able to smile Thursday, although he appeared emotionally drained. “I’m feeling sad that it’s closed, but it’s a natural progression of an era that we started. … The whole of Chinatown has benefited from our being open.”
The restaurant, established in 1994, turned into a nightclub on the first Friday of each month. It had about 25 employees.
“I came here with the understanding that things are at a critical time,” said the eatery’s chef de cuisine, Ricky Goings, who started about a month ago. “I’m more or less bummed out. First of all, I’m out of a job. I did come here to breathe new life into this place. That was the intention. We were turning the corner as far as statistics would dictate, but I guess, too little, too late.”
Chu also acknowledged that changing the menu after reopening Indigo in July, using the cuisine of different chefs on different days, “might have confused guests.”
The lineup included Goings, Dave Cruz and Robert McGee, who were consulting chefs until Goings was hired. Goings worked at Prima Restaurant and He‘eia Kea Pier General Store and Deli.
“I wanted to experiment a little and have the chefs bring in their talent and knowledge,” Chu said. “The food was certainly good, but there were not enough customers.”