Jazzing Up Entertainment, Service

Executive chef Rodney Uyehara, general manager Marco Olivari, production manager Chaz Dobbs and waitress Maya Yamada welcome you with open arms to Blue Note Hawaii.

By Karen Iwamoto

Blue Note Hawaii, which is part of a larger family of Blue Note Jazz clubs that began in New York, is known for its intimate live shows by renowned jazz, blues and local performers. Its chill, supper club atmosphere attracts visitors and kamaaina alike.

What most don’t see, however, is behind the scenes of the Waikiki hangout, about 100 full- and part-time employees work diligently to keep the venue running smoothly. These include servers and bartenders, cooks and busboys, greeters and gift shop staff, graphic artists and salespeople.

“I’m amazed every day to see my staff perform,” said Marco Olivari, general manager of Blue Note Hawaii, mentioning that grace under pressure and the ability to work as part of a team are the two biggest factors he looks for when hiring.

Blue Note staff handles everything from parking validations to marketing, plus all that comes with running a restaurant, because drinks and meal service are part of the overall experience.

However, unlike traditional restaurants — where busy periods give way to slower ones that then pick up again — at Blue Note, the surge comes all at once and never stops, from the moment the doors open for a show and the audience arrives, to the time the “curtain closes.”

Box office and retail assistant Shaun Henckel stocks Blue Note’s aloha wear in the establishment’s boutique.

“Our shows are 70 minutes long,” Olivari explained. “It’s like an airplane — when it lands, that’s it. You have to get in as much service as possible within a limited time.”

Add to this the fact that every show is different — a Willie K performance will draw a different audience than a Rick Springfield performance — and Olivari needs a staff that can adjust to and anticipate the preferences of diverse audiences.

None of this is to say that working at Blue Note is all stress. On the contrary, the many perks keep turnover low, Olivari explained. The most obvious perk is that those working the floor of the showroom also get to experience the live performances.

“You’re still working,” Olivari said. “You’re there to serve, but you get that exposure.”

On top of serving the audience, the Blue Note staff also cooks for and serves the performers.

“It is an additional responsibility for a server to be assigned to serve the band, but people volunteer for this because it gives them a chance to meet the band and maybe develop a rapport,” he said.

Olivari also is proud of the comradery among his workers, describing them as a flexible and tight-knit crew.

“We all help each other in times of need,” Olivari said, mentioning that he works out schedules to accommodate those who may be balancing military responsibilities and school in addition to working at the club.

Blue Note also takes pride in the support it gives to local and international entertainment, a move that draws appreciation from the community, further bolstering the work environment.

“At the end of the day, I can feel good about what we’re doing,” he said. “Not everyone else can say that about their job.”

Blue Note also includes clubs in Rio, Milan, Beijing, Tokyo, Nagoya and Napa. The Hawaii club seats approximately 325 people and holds two shows a night. It is located in the former Society of Seven showroom in the famous Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort.

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THE 411

COMPANY: Blue Note Hawaii


ADDRESS: Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort 2335 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki

PHONE: 777-4890


EMPLOYEES: Approximately 100 fulland part-time

BENEFITS: Health care, paid leave for full-time employees; flexible hours; opportunity to meet performers

NOTEWORTHY: Blue Note Hawaii supports local causes and charities through the donation of a portion of its ticket sales. The venue also is available for private events.