Humu Humu has posted her feelings about the closing of Trader Vic’s Beverly Hills. I commented on that and wanted to bring it here and share my thoughts.
There is a thread on Tiki Central to send messages to try to save Trader Vic’s. You’ll notice I never posted. It was never going to get anywhere towards saving the place, and, it probably led to what happened, a very quick, quiet closing that did not allow a bunch of weirdos to make a scene.
What seems to be lost on everyone is that these places are businesses. When your business is losing money, you close it, no matter if that is painful or very painful. And often, before they close the business, they try a lot of things to fix it. Tiki bars are not an exception.
The forces at work that have closed 90+% of the vintage tiki places in the last 30 years, are still closing them today.
Getting conservancy groups involved is also a sure way to piss off the owners and get them to close a place sooner. They want to avoid government regulators from preventing them from doing as they please with their property.
Writing letters and even going there yourself on a regular basis is not the answer, though your business helps. What can you do that will help your local or even, not so local tiki bar survive? Promote it.
You may be the most vocal and inspired advocate they have. I think the third Thursday get together at the new Hula Hula in Seattle is great. And their great reviews of the place and obviously their enthusiasm for it locally, are contagious. Such gatherings are happening all over. We need to spread a very positive message about tiki in general, and we need to put out positive things about locations specifically.
We in the Tiki community are, unfortunately, perhaps helping destroy a lot of places. If we venture to a classic bar, and then come to Tiki Central or our blogs and complain about the drinks and the beer signs, that may be the only description on the web for that place. And the young folks just discovering it search the Net first and see your negative comments. Though you may wrap it up with how great it is to go there, even though the drinks weren’t in tiki mugs, you leave an impression that no outsider is going to bother with, and is less likely to enjoy.
What we can’t do is make a bad place good, bad drinks good, or bad food good. You can’t save a sinking ship with good wishes. And when we are honest with ourselves, we will likely find we are only sad to see the facade go, and not the place where we complained about quality and quantity through our teeth.
Sucks doesn’t it?
The best tiki bars in the country are still A) Tiki Central member’s home bars, B) Trader Vic’s, C) a few old guard like the Mai Kai and Hala Kahiki, and D) the new generation like Forbidden Island. The ghosts are still growing in number as they have for the last 30 years. We are just painfully aware of them now and imagine that times have changed. All that has changed is the number of mourners and the depth of their sorrow.
p.s. To help out, go to this page, the second link when you search Google for the Mai Kai, and add a good review.