Could This End Tiki…Again?

Mary and Brian taking a picture of the Shark With Laser Beams at Rumba

“Your just desserts.”

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying.

Drinks being set on fire, Tiki mugs, little umbrellas, and cute garnishes. Yes, I loved all these things and they were part of what attracted me to Tiki. You can’t walk into any bar and expect to have a drink lit on fire for you. That’s what makes a Tiki bar special: you’re having an experience that can’t easily be duplicated anywhere else.

Jason creating fire hazzards on a daily basis
Jason creating fire hazzards on a daily basis

I was sipping a drink at Hale Pele the other night and I was chatting it up with the bartender. The place was packed…

Hale Pele
Hale Pele

I was surprised to see so many people. I mentioned my observation. She said that if you Google “best bar to have a birthday party,” Hale Pele was the first bar to come up.

At first, I thought that was great. The more business a Tiki bar gets, the less of a chance there is of it closing down. I looked around the room and sure enough, most of the tables were people celebrating a birthday, having a bachelorette party, or just having some drinks after a day at the office.

And then something started to bother me.

Volcano bowls were everywhere. There was more long straws than people it seemed. Drinks are being set on fire left and right.

Sierra Hale Pele

There were more flames than in The Towering Inferno! And of course, everyone is taking pictures of their drinks to post online. I sadly realized that these people didn’t really care about what they were drinking. They were only concerned with the spectacle and gimmicks.

I was chatting it up with my good friends Mary and Brian. They love Disney and they were talking about a multi-colored drink that everyone goes crazy over. It’s called the Cove’s Fun Wheel and people LOVE this drink!

The Cove Fun Wheel
The Cove’s Fun Wheel

Well actually, they love taking pictures of the drink. The cocktail itself is pretty terrible.

This is what killed Tiki and what could kill Tiki again.

If all people care about is colorful-looking drinks or having a drink set on fire, the quality of the drinks themselves will go downhill. Here’s a perfect example, what I like to call an ’80s Mai-Tai:

An 80's Mai-Tai
An 80’s Mai-Tai

Sure the drink looks cool. Check out that dark rum float on top! But I’m getting a hangover just looking at the thing.

If a Tiki bar can get away with charging you top dollar for a cocktail because it’s served in a “funky” Tiki mug with a cute umbrella or the only thing “tiki” about the bar is the drinks…

Zombie at The Alibi

…then Tiki is dead.

5 thoughts on “Could This End Tiki…Again?

  1. Steve Reply

    That last picture of the Alibi isn’t fair. They’ve upped their game & are back on par.

    • Ray Wyland Post authorReply

      Yes! I need to hit The Alibi soon! I haven’t been there since the remodel.

      • Rob

        We went there two weekends ago, and I agree, they have stepped up their game. Ray, definitely worth a visit.

      • Ray Wyland Post author

        Awesome! Yes. I need to make it down to Portland real soon. I’ll let you know when I’m coming down. Maybe we can meet up!

  2. Art Faulnker Reply

    All the people getting into Tiki will likely kill it, because it will never really be mass appeal as it was in the 50’s and 60’s. Either it’s the superficial “Jimmy Buffett Margaritville” Cafe types that have recently converted to tiki, or its the hard-core-hard to please-Tikiphiles that live for this kind of thing. When the Cocktail Culture came back in the early 90’s tiki was a side thing, a few tiki mugs and a strong Mai Tai was cool enough, along with maybe some Dean Martin, or Combustible Edison. Now it’s very narrow-the fun is out of it, simply buying every tiki mug and lamp doesn’t make you cool, more likely its attracting some fairly lame people. The tiki places that combine sports bars or rock music may seem unauthentic, but likely will survive long after the trend fades. A visit to some of these tiki forums shows what goof balls many of these people are.

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