For as long as he could remember, Lee Anderson‘s life was revolved around Hawaiian Brian’s (hawaiianbrians.com), the popular entertainment venue. In the 1980’s, his father was one of HB’s partners and was involved in popularizing the venue. After taking over as general manager in 2012, Lee revealed his plans to make Hawaiian Brian’s a family-friendly location and a place for budding local talent to grow.
Back in the day, Hawaiian Brian’s was a prime spot for billiard players and gamers. Now, the venue, which is located above the Kapiolani Boulevard 24 Hour Fitness location, has established itself not just as a pool room and arcade, but as a music venue, restaurant and bar.
“It made sense to reinvest in this business,” Lee said. “It’s a survival type of thing. You think of things that are going to get trendy.”
But soon he realized that pool and arcade games were becoming more household items, and that people didn’t need to step out of their homes to simply play billiards or video games.
“With those numbers going down, we had to find ways to increase revenue. My father was a partner of a live audio company; he had a background in that. We just started dabbling in live music and started with a small stage. Then the shows started getting bigger.”
Thus began the revitalization of one of Hawaii’s oldest entertainment venues.
Lee decided to keep the billiard room and the arcade portion of Hawaiian Brian’s, but gradually opened his doors to local, up-and-coming artists. His plan is to “stick with local, live entertainment,” but expects the venue to constantly evolve. HB hosts four rooms – Crossroads, which is used for larger events; The Studio, a lounge for local bands to hold intimate events; Electron, a gathering spot for DJs, specifically in the EDM genre; and the classic pool room, which includes a bar and a number of billiard tables.
“We do mainland shows every once in a while, but we want to build a scene here,” said Lee, who is also the manager for local DJ Graves. “When bands play here, all the amps and equipment are already here. They don’t have to really bring much. Everything is a professional setup, like the sound system and lighting…We want to make each room have a professional setup, so if these bands go on tour and go to bigger venues, they’re already comfortable with a basic professional setup. We try to do our part in investing in the local people, so we want to go all out.”
Hawaiian Brian’s directly works with a few bands, but also teams up with a number of promoters from different venues to “bring in quality talent.” Lee says that the venue has become a home for the Hawaiian Brian’s crew, and they’ve become selective on which artists they’d want to accept into their “house.”
“We have a good idea of what kinds of crowds come in, so that’s how we choose what bands or DJs to bring in,” he said.
Overall, there hasn’t been any trouble with managing the venue; small obstacles pop up occasionally, but for the most part, Lee hasn’t had any crowd control situations.
“The crowd has been pretty mellow. I think the thing is that our staff tries to be respectable to everyone who comes to shows, and that’s what sets the tone. We try to be friendly and take care of everyone…If anything, it’ll probably just be one person that gets out of hand, but so far it’s been easy to manage. We have a pretty good idea of who comes in so that we can prepare for different crowds.”