The Hukilau hits the road to spread aloha, benefit closed Tiki bars

Updated June 3

The coronoavirus pandemic shows few signs of abating, bars and restaurants across the U.S. remain closed, and most events scheduled for the upcoming months continue to be canceled or postponed. Facing this bleak future, it was a forgone conclusion that The Hukilau would be forced to reschedule its 19th annual Tiki weekender scheduled for June 3-7 in Fort Lauderdale.

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Indeed, today’s announcement sent to ticketholders does just that, but with a hugely ambitious twist. Rather than just regroup at some future date at the historic Mai-Kai restaurant and the beachside B Ocean Resort, organizers have announced The Hukilau “(MO)RE (ALO)HA Tour,” a series of events across the country this summer and fall aimed at raising money for Tiki bars devastated by what have now become months-long shutdowns.

The Hukilau (MO)RE (ALO)HA Tour 2020

The tour will indeed include a return to The Mai-Kai for an 18th straight year, just without the hotel component. “Smaller local events can directly support our bars, and not require villagers to buy an airline ticket, or book a hotel,” The Hukilau announced in the email. “We believe this is the best opportunity to bring the ohana together, and support our community.”

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The announcement said The Hukilau is planning “5 or more stops on the tour.” Besides Fort Lauderdale, other planned tour stops are Los Angeles and San Francisco. Potential events in additional cities are on the drawing board, among them Chicago, Pittsburgh, Denver, and Atlanta. The email confirmed that the tour will end Oct. 16 in London, site of the previously scheduled Hukilau London, presented in association with The UK RumFest.

A performer in The Mai-Kai's Polynesian Islander Revue is captured during The Hukilau 2019. The revue is the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States, including Hawaii. (Photo by Jim Neumayer)
A performer in The Mai-Kai’s Polynesian Islander Revue is captured during The Hukilau 2019. The revue is the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States, including Hawaii. (Photo by Jim Neumayer)

All of the U.S. dates and locations are still to be determined, the email stressed, adding: “We cannot set a schedule until we see how the health crisis and government restrictions play out.” The tour is designed to be “responsive and flexible to changing conditions,” but the hope is for events to take place throughout August and September. “There’s nothing easy about the current conditions we are living in,” it said, adding: “We have all grown more comfortable with a greater amount of uncertainty.”

If you’re already booked for the June event, you can immediately cancel your B Ocean Resort reservation with no penalty. But event ticketholders are being encouraged to hang tight while The Hukilau works out details on multiple options for villagers to transfer some of their payments. “Our number one goal is to support our bars and artists,” according to the announcement from The Hukilau’s organizer, Richard Oneslager, and his crew. Ticket-holders can email Aloha@TheHukilau.com for more information on their options. Also look for updates at TheHukilau.com.

New exclusive merchandise will be announced soon. Follow The Hukilau on Facebook and Instagram for info on special mugs and other Tiki treasures that highlight The Hukilau partner bars, as well as artists and vendors.

When the pandemic was looming, The Hukilau wanted to make sure its artists were paid and moved forward on all merch. “We made a big commitment to our artists, and will be presenting our plan to make your purchase of 2020 items do even more to support our bars with our own dollars added to each purchase,” the announcement said.

Tiki Tony in the Tiki Treasures Bazaar at The Hukilau 2019. (Photo by Robert Jiminez)
Tiki Tony in the Tiki Treasures Bazaar at The Hukilau 2019. (Photo by Robert Jiminez)

These artists include Tiki Tony Murphy, Crazy Al Evans, John Mulder of Eekum Bookum, and Danny “Tiki Diablo” Danny Gallardo, who are producing all of the items originally planned for the June event. The Hukilau announced it will set aside all profits (plus additional matching donations) from merchandise to a fund benefiting the bar partners. Event tickets and other streams of revenue will also be directed toward the stricken businesses.

So what will these proposed events look like, and where will they take place exactly? As stated in the email, the format will vary depending on the venue and the state or local restrictions that apply at that time. The parties may include symposiums, bands, vendors, and multiple bars. Or not. It depends on the venue. One other bright note: The Mai-Kai has been invited to join the road show, so don’t be surprised if you see The Hukilau’s longtime partner making appearances elsewhere. Key staff have been a mainstay over the three years of The Hukilau London event.

What other bars can I expect to participate? If you’ve been to The Hukilau over the past several years, you’ve probably enjoyed cocktails, classes and symposiums presented by many top mixologists from around the country. We can speculate based on the cities mentioned above that The Hukilau is working closely with Tonga Hut (Los Angeles), plus Pagan Idol and Zombie Village (San Francisco). Other longtime partners you could see involved include Three Dots and a Dash (Chicago) and Hidden Harbor (Pittsburgh).

Jeannie Grant of Pagan Idol serves up cocktails during the Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau 2019. (Photo by Hukillau Mike)
Jeannie Grant of Pagan Idol serves up cocktails during the Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau 2019. (Photo by Hukillau Mike)

The announcement also added that you can “plan on multiple bars participating” in most cities. That would open up the event to other past partners in those regions, such as Tiki Underground and Porco Lounge & Tiki Room from Ohio, plus a host of Florida bars (Death or Glory, Esotico Miami, Suffering Bastard, et al.). “We will bring as many bars together in the broader region, to be a part of the party,” Onslager’s announcement says. Bars that are part of the “Tiki ohana” that have not previously traveled to Fort Lauderdale are also being considered, we’ve been told.

As the email eloquently noted: “Certain parts of our community have been given a hard, swift kick in the coconuts. Maybe two. We have a program where you can direct all of your passion and support of The Hukilau, and channel it to others in our community.” That’s the plan for 2020, and a noble one at that.

Above all else, The Hukilau is asking its longtime supporters to be patient as this all plays out. “Under current conditions it would be foolish and unfair to predict dates or ask our bar partners (currently closed up) to commit to dates under the most unpredictable of circumstances,” the email says.

Artists (from left) Henrik Van Ryzin (VanTiki), Baï, Danny Gallardo (Tiki Diablo), and John Mulder (Eekum Bookum) united for a symposium on Tiki mugs at The Hukilau 2019. (Atomic Grog photo)
Artists (from left) Henrik Van Ryzin (VanTiki), Baï, Danny Gallardo (Tiki Diablo), and John Mulder (Eekum Bookum) united for a symposium on Tiki mugs at The Hukilau 2019. (Atomic Grog photo)

“This time, more than any other, needs the aloha spirit. We have a plan to bring the aloha, and ask you to join us,” the email invite says.

A few more takeaways from the announcement:

* The merchandise in the pipeline includes the annual “See Aloha” pendant by Crazy Al, a special “Dashboard Tiki” for South Seas passholders by Tiki Tony, a special gift for Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy ticketholders by Tiki Diablo, and the official 2020 mug designed by featured artist Mitch O’Connell and produced by Eekum Bookum. Plans call for all of the items, except perhaps the mug, to be available in The Hukilau’s online store in June. It’s possible that mugs may be offered first to attendees at the (MO)RE (ALO)HA Tour parties. That detail is still to be determined.

* The decision to cancel the June dates was “a function of uncertainty, safety, and our confidence that we can give everyone an amazing experience. No one knows when the storm will clear, and the ground rules for coming out of our homes. What we do know is that our bars are dealing with challenging circumstances and may be in a fight for their existence. Most, if not all, would not be in a position to come to The Hukilau in June.”

During the "Tiki Mayhem" class at The Hukilau 2019, Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy students learned from experts including Ian Burrell (left), Georgi Radev and Daniele Dalla Pola. (Photo by Jim Hayward / The Atomic Grog)
During the “Tiki Mayhem” class at The Hukilau 2019, Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy students learned from experts including Ian Burrell (left), Georgi Radev and Daniele Dalla Pola. (Photo by Jim Hayward / The Atomic Grog)

* The priorities behind the announcement were clearly stated at the outset as “(1) ohana, (2) safety, (3) flexibility, and (4) supporting our guest bars and artists in these most trying of times.”

* Why the proposed August-September window of dates? “We chose the time period most likely open for our country. … We do not have a crystal ball, but we believe this timeframe is the most probable period to safely bring the party to our villagers.”

* Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy students are not being forgotten. “We will be presenting online classes this summer to help you all round out your education,” the email says. “When classes are completed, there will be pomp, there will be circumstance, and there will be rum.”

* Regarding the cancellation of the June party at the B Ocean Resort, a much-anticipated return to the historic hotel that has seen many past Hukilau parties and is home to the iconic Wreck Bar and Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid, Oneslager lamented that “it’s disappointing for all of us” but the “challenges and unknowns” are too numerous to make it viable.

This wasn’t mentioned, but I know that there are high hopes that the event can return there in its full-blow status for a 20th anniversary celebration in June 2021.

Follow The Hukilau
* TheHukilau.com | Facebook: Page and Group | Instagram

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The Hukilau past coverage

Photos: 10 highlights from The Hukilau 2019 in Fort Lauderdale
Photos: 10 highlights from The Hukilau 2019 in Fort Lauderdale
Take a look back at last year’s festivities with dozens of photos and 10 memorable moments from the five days of fun.
* 2019: Photos and video from social media

* 2018 social media recap | More highlights
* 2017 daily recaps, news, photos and video | More highlights
* More recaps: 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2002-2008

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