story by Roland Gilmore
photos by Kent Hwang
Marcus Bender is not your typical restaurateur—in fact, he never intended to be one. A self-described "beverage guy," the current owner of Brew Moon Restaurant and Microbrewery spent the 1990s involved in a variety of bev-based businesses, first buying and reviving the bankrupt soda giant Hansen’s, then going on to found the Hawaiian Natural Water Company on the Big Island.
So why buy a restaurant ... and, for that matter, one whose parent company had gone belly-up? "The hook was the brewery—I always wanted to own one," Marcus says with a hearty laugh. "It turned out
I was the only bidder, so just by putting my face into it I ended up in the restaurant business."
Since taking over the popular eatery in 2001, Bender’s past as a ’70s-era jazz promoter has also come into play. When musicians performing at the annual Hawaii International Jazz Festival needed a place to play post-fest gigs last year, he built a temporary stage in the main dining room ... and then decided to keep it.
"We always had music in the bar, but we had such a nice room, I thought, ‘why not bring it into a place where people can get comfortable?’ Plus I have a history in the music business"—again the big laugh—"not that I ever made any money on it, but I enjoy it."Bender’s love of music has remade Brew Moon into a mainstay on the local scene, with a seven-nights-a-week schedule featuring everything from live jazz and R&B to DJ-spun hip hop. Put it all together with a set of award-winning, hand-crafted beers, designer sakes and a reasonably priced Pacific Rim menu, and it’s easy to see why the Moon is continually on the rise in Honolulu.
For the latest performance schedule, call (808) 593-0088, or go to brewmoonhi.com/musiconthemoon.