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Bamboo Garden Under New Owner

December 23, 2013, 7:26 PM HST (Updated December 24, 2013, 9:49 AM)
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The long-standing Bamboo Garden has found a new owner.

Waylen Leopoldino took over in October and is focusing on what’s kept the Hilo bar what it’s been for decades — good food, good fun, tasty mixed drinks and “a great time with friends and family,” he said.

The 36-year-old said owning a bar was never his plan, but “I have always enjoyed the company of my friends in a social environment.”

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Bamboo Garden has been on Kilauea Avenue, across from the bowling alley, for decades. Photo by Hunter Bishop

Born and raised in Hilo and an entrepreneur “ever since I can remember,” Leopoldino said he “took an instant liking to Bamboo Garden” when he moved back home in 2008. He liked the atmosphere and enjoyed the times he spent there.

In July he asked then-owner Karen Yang about owning a bar when she offered to sell him the remainder of her lease. “It didn’t take me long to jump on that idea,” he said. Within three months he was in business.

Leopoldino, who owns a degree in human resources management, also “always had an interest in the aesthetics of bars and restaurants. I enjoy looking at the design and setup and how people interact,” he said.

Now he’s working to brand Bamboo Garden as a local hangout, sports and karaoke bar. “I want to ensure that the sound system and songs are current and meet customers’ demands.” He’s also upgrading the food and drinks.

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My goal is to introduce new mixed and exotic drinks including the new Bamboo Iced Tea and Bamboo Sunrise. He’s added deep-fried chicken skins and deep-fried mandoo to the special local favorites.

Leopoldino still works full-time in human resources for the County of Hawaii while working part-time operating Bamboo Garden. His partner is his mom, Donna Weber, who manages the bar and oversees the kitchen and bar operations. “It would be impossible without her experience,” he said.

Leopoldino also has been trying to locate some local history on Bamboo Garden. “You may have parents and grandparents who patronized the businesses or even worked there,” he said. He’d like to hear from you.

Located at 718 Kinoole St., across from Hilo Lanes Bowling Alley, Bamboo Garden is open 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Friday; 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday. Call 935-8952.

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