Meticulous attention to detail is hallmark of The Mai-Kai restoration project (May-June 2023 update)

Meticulous attention to detail is hallmark of The Mai-Kai restoration project (May-June 2023 update)

When The Mai-Kai reopens for guests, there will be tons of fresh features on the exterior: A lushly landscaped entryway with flowing water and rock work, a redesigned and immersive parking lot, plus a new outdoor bar and stage. But when you enter the main building, it will be like stepping into a time machine set for 1973.
RELATED: The Mai-Kai renovations, May-June 2023: Historic restaurant’s new infrastructure begins to take shape
SEE BELOW: May-June chronology | Design projects in depth

Scott "Flounder" Scheidly (left) and creative director "Typhoon Tommy" Allsmiller have mastered the art of restoring vintage lamps at The Mai-Kai. (Photos by Kern Mattei and Hurricane Hayward / June 2023)
Scott “Flounder” Scheidly (left) and creative director “Typhoon Tommy” Allsmiller have mastered the art of restoring vintage lamps at The Mai-Kai. (Photos by Kern Mattei and Hurricane Hayward / June 2023)

Making this feat a reality is a team of artists and craftspeople under the direction of manager Kern Mattei and creative director “Typhoon Tommy” Allsmiller. This over-arching job is mammoth, encompassing the restoration of the Molokai bar, eight elaborately themed dining areas, plus other guest spaces.

On top of this, Mattei is managing on-site workflow during the massive infrastructure project [see sidebar] while Allsmiller has his hand in any project that requires thematic design and an artist’s touch. In our last detailed story, we took a long look behind the scenes as Allsmiller and Scott “Flounder” Scheidly were deeply immersed in detail work throughout the sprawling 26,000-square-foot building.
PREVIOUS: Bora Bora building comes down as restoration efforts pick up steam
UPDATES: Latest news, photos of The Mai-Kai refurbishment

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The Mai-Kai at Tiki Oasis
The Mai-Kai and The Atomic Grog are headed to Tiki Oasis
Join us for two special seminars at the world’s original Tiki weekender Aug. 2-6 in San Diego

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In this update, we’ll catch up with the Orlando-area artists as they continue their mission to return The Mai-Kai to the same condition it was when the last major redesign was completed in the early 1970s. That’s when the last dining rooms were added and the building’s current footprint was solidified, some 15 years after its 1956 opening.

First, let’s walk through a chronological recap from May and June:

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MAY AND JUNE UPDATES

Restored lamps in the Hawaii dining room, early May 2023. (Photo by Kern Mattei)
Restored lamps in the Hawaii dining room, early May 2023. (Photo by Kern Mattei)

EARLY MAY: Allsmiller and Scheidly were busy refurbishing lamps in the Hawaii dining area, the 60-capacity room to the right of the showroom stage. “They touched almost all of them,” Mattei said. They also finished the ceiling in Hawaii, adding new panels.

They were assisted by longtime Mai-Kai handyman Gustavo in removing the window between Hawaii and Samoa, then adding new wood and lighting. The window was cleaned and put back in place, restoring this little-known feature to its vintage condition:

Handyman Gustavo (from left),
(Photos by Kern Mattei)

They also started on the adjacent Moorea dining area, a 40-capacity room that’s slightly elevated to offer the most distant views of the Polynesian Islander Revue to the north beyond Hawaii. The opposite southern glass wall, featuring rare yellow Chinese jade tiles, offers views of the outdoor garden. The crew immediately targeted the woodwork, matting and lamps for repair.

The lamp-builders also pivoted back to the Tonga Room, the elevated 80-capacity space in the back of the showroom. They had made great progress there in previous months, but the huge space still had many lamps that needed work.

Below at left is a restored tapa in The Mai-Kai’s Hawaii Room. A vintage turtle shell lamp will be returned to the center (note the electrical outlet). At right are some of the many restored lamps in the Tonga Room.

Restored tapas in The Mai-Kai's Hawaii Room (left) and lamps in the Tonga Room. (Photos by Hurricane Hayward / May 2023)
(Photos by Hurricane Hayward / May 2023)

MID-MAY: Work wrapped up in the Hawaii dining room as Allsmiller and Scheidly put finishing touches on the lamps, walls and ceiling. “Once the turtle shells go back on the walls, it’s going to be beautiful in here,” Allsmiller said.

In their workspace in the main showroom, the lamp brigade finished all of the low-hanging lamps in the Tonga dining area, many created 50 years ago by the venerable Oceanic Arts. Those high in the A-frame will be touched later. Traditionally one of the darkest parts of restaurant, this area looks much brighter with all the lamps refurbished and featuring modern LED lighting.

In the left photo below, Allsmiller shows off a lamp project on May 18. At right, he points out work being done to restore an old framed tapa in the hallway near the Tonga Room and entrance to the kitchen. After the colors are touched up and it’s covered in Mod Podge, you won’t even notice, he said. “We’re trying to save them, bring them back.”

"Typhoon Tommy" Allsmiller shows off a lamp project (left) and points out work being done to restore an old framed tapa. (Photos by Hurricane Hayward / May 2023)
(Photos by Hurricane Hayward / May 2023)

Back in Moorea, Allsmiller explained how they’re trying to restore the walls even though some of the materials are no longer available. He said they’re using materials salvaged from elsewhere, then changing the design slightly so chair backs will no longer damage the matting. “We’re saving material and reusing it,” he said.

He said the typical plan of attack for each room is to work on the walls first and save the lamps for last, or whenever they’re waiting for materials. On May 18, I found them in the nerve center – the main showroom workspace – buried in new lamp projects.

Both Scheidly and Allsmiller were working on total rebuilds of old lamps from the Tonga Room, found broken and in bad shape (see photo below). “I like the challenge,” Allsmiller said of not having the blueprints. He said he can make an educated guess of what the lamps should look like. Schematics for some of the Oceanic Arts lamps were found in The Mai-Kai warehouse, but many others are mysteries.

Scott "Flounder" Scheidly (left) and "Typhoon Tommy" Allsmiller works on rebuilding vintage lamps at The Mai-Kai. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward / May 2023)
(Photo by Hurricane Hayward / May 2023)

Work was also progressing into Samoa, a secluded dining area that seats 44 in one of the oldest rooms at The Mai-Kai. The “demolition crew” had been busy tearing out all the old, damaged wall materials. This is a big help to the designers, allowing them to concentrate on restoration. Work was also advancing on the refurbishing of the ceiling and beams.

Continue reading “Meticulous attention to detail is hallmark of The Mai-Kai restoration project (May-June 2023 update)”

The Week in Tiki (Nov. 16-29, 2015): The Hukilau’s Tiki Tower Takeover sold out, Trader Vic’s battles critics, Tiki Farm releases 15th anniversary mugs, more!

The Week in Tiki Hot off the presses, we have breaking news on The Hukilau’s Tiki Tower Takeover selling out, the inside story of Trader Vic’s in Emeryville facing a noise crackdown, plus the release of open editions of Tiki Farm’s 15th anniversary mugs. You can find holiday Tiki gift ideas, plus previews of seasonal events in Anaheim, Los Angeles, Huntington Beach and Atlanta. Quick hits include news on Ìxtahuele, B.G. Reynolds Syrups and several crowd-funding projects. Regular features spotlight surrealist artist Scott “Flounder” Scheidly; surf guitarist Laramie Dean; Cleveland’s Porco Lounge & Tiki Room; and the Vintage Roadside website. The Rum of the Week, Koloa Gold, is featured in the Unisphere cocktail.
* Keep up with The Week in Tiki: Facebook page | RSS feed | See past weeks | Archive
* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

All Tiki Tower Takeover tickets are taken, 5th bartender announced

The Hukilau 2016 artwork by Shag

One of the most anticipated Tiki cocktail events of 2016 is already sold out, a little over a month after tickets went on sale and more than six months before The Hukilau celebrates its 15th anniversary with a five-day celebration in Fort Lauderdale. The second annual Tiki Tower Takeover will be held on June 9 in the revolving 17th floor ballroom atop the historic Pier 66 hotel and will feature five of the country’s top Tiki barmen mixing up signature cocktails.

The Hukilau: June 8-12, 2016, at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.
* Buy passes and tickets | Book a room

The Hukilau's Christie "Tiki Kiliki" White welcomes Beachbum Berry and Steve Yamada
The Hukilau’s Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White welcomes Beachbum Berry (right) and his Latitude 29 head bartender, Steve Yamada, to the first Tiki Tower Takeover in June 2015. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The first Tiki Tower Takeover, held in June 2015, was spearheaded by award-winning author and Tiki bar owner Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (Latitude 29 in New Orleans). Berry and his three brethren return in 2016: Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco), Paul McGee (Lost Lake in Chicago), and Brian Miller (Tiki Mondays With Miller in New York City).

The Hukilau’s producer and organizer, Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White, has also revealed a fifth top bartender who will be joining the event and setting up shop next to last year’s fab four: St. John Frizell, owner-operator of Fort Defiance in Brooklyn and host of The Sunken Harbor Club, the bar’s monthly celebration of Polynesian food and drinks. In October, Frizell beat out an all-star lineup of Big Apple mixologists to win The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the New York City Wine & Food Festival. [Atomic Grog coverage, photos] White will also soon announce the Tiki bar that will be serving the “welcome drink” to guests as they board a private elevator and head up to the exclusive skylounge. In addition to the six cocktails, attendees of the two-hour event (5 to 7 p.m.) will enjoy food and live entertainment while the lounge rotates once every 66 minutes.
Coming soon: A full preview of the second Tiki Tower Takeover
* The Atomic Grog’s recap of the 2015 Tiki Tower Takeover | Photo gallery

The other special event that went on sale in late October is also likely to sell out soon. Shag’s SkyLounge, a swank “Martini meet and mingle” in the Pier Top Ballroom hosted by acclaimed artist Josh Agle, will follow the Tiki Tower Takeover on June 9, running from 10 p.m. to midnight. Tickets are available now exclusively for weekend passholders for $49, which includes a Martini, live entertainment and the one-of-a-kind experience of being in live Shag painting. Four-day, three-day and two-day passes are available at 2015 prices until early January. Five-day passes are sold out. The full entertainment lineup, more rum and cocktail events, a Beachbum Berry symposium, and more will be announced in early January.
More on The Atomic Grog
* All five-day tickets sold out | Tiki Tower bartenders return, Marina to perform
* The Hukilau 2016 passes on sale now at 2015 prices
* Shag to help toast The Hukilau’s 15th anniversary in 2016

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Nov. 16-29, 2015): The Hukilau’s Tiki Tower Takeover sold out, Trader Vic’s battles critics, Tiki Farm releases 15th anniversary mugs, more!”

The Week in Tiki (March 9, 2015): Historic bars compete, Vintage Tiki Weekend announced, Rum Fest at The Mai-Kai

The Week in TikiNews this week includes a historic bars contest that features four famous Tiki establishments, plus a sneak peak at The Hukilau’s 2015 event mug. We preview a party at the Tonga Hut, ticket sales for Tiki Kon, and Dapper Day at Disney World. A new event joins the Tiki calendar: Vintage Tiki Weekend at the historic Caribbean Motel in Wildwood, N.J. Also announced was a swap in Dole Whip locations at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, plus the Miami Rum Festival’s annual pilgrimage to The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. Our weekly features spotlight artist Crazy Al Evans, TheTikiChick.com, classic exotica artist Gene Rains, and acclaimed Tiki bar Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco. The rum of the week, Plantation Jamaican, is featured in the Red Tide cocktail.
* Keep up with The Week in Tiki: Facebook page | RSS feed | See past weeks | Archive
* Weekly features: Artist | Website | Band/music | Tiki bar | Rum | Cocktail | Events

THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS (March 9-15, 2015)

Historic Bars Tournament features four classic Tiki establishments

Every year, there are more and more alternatives to college basketball’s bracket mania known as March Madness. Simply match up a long list of anything in multiples of four, and see who makes the Sweet 16 and Final Four. This year, fans of Tiki and its classic watering holes can vote for their favorites during The Big Tap: 2015 Historic Bars Tournament.

A vintage photo of The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale
A vintage photo of The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. (From Facebook)

The tourney, which kicked off Monday (March 9), is being run by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which has lined up 32 historic bars and matched them up in brackets. Among those in the competition are four historic Tiki temples: The Mai-Kai (Fort Lauderdale), Bali Hai (San Diego), La Mariana (Honolulu), and the Tonga Room (San Francisco). The Mai-Kai, a South Florida institution, was recently named to the National Register of Historic Places.
* Previous Atomic Grog coverage

The four are among the oldest Tiki establishments in the country. The Tonga Room opened in 1945, La Mariana and Bali Hai in 1955, and The Mai-Kai in 1956. Make your vote count in this single-elimination tournament. The voting period for each round ends at 8 a.m. Eastern time on Fridays (March 13, 20, 27 and April 3). There will be prizes for the bars that advance to the Sweet 16 and beyond. Besides the Tiki bars, there are dive bars, sports bars, and many historic watering holes that date back as far as 1733.

The entries were culled from the Historic Bars series, which started last June on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s blog, PreservationNation. These were determined through the site’s own research, plus public submissions from Facebook and Twitter followers. They then narrowed it down to 32 for the bracket.

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (March 9, 2015): Historic bars compete, Vintage Tiki Weekend announced, Rum Fest at The Mai-Kai”

The Week in Tiki (March 2, 2015): The Hukilau mug giveaway, Bacardi cocktail champ, $153,400 Tiki Room bird

The Week in TikiThis week’s news includes a contest to win the new event mug for The Hukilau 2015 by Tiki Diablo, plus a preview of a New York City cocktail event featuring the crew from Tiki Mondays With Miller. We also recap last week’s Legacy Cocktail Competition in Miami Beach sponsored by Bacardi, and an auction of Disney parks collectibles that netted $1.7 million. Our weekly features spotlight artist Robert Jimenez, Digitiki.com and The Quiet Village, exotic band Ixtahuele, and former Tiki hotspot The Castaways in Miami Beach. The rum of the week, Denizen white, is featured in the Rebel With a Cause cocktail.
* Keep up with The Week in Tiki: Facebook page | RSS feed | See past weeks | Archive
* Weekly features: Artist | Website | Band/music | Tiki bar | Rum | Cocktail | Events

THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS (March 2-8, 2015)

The Hukilau mug giveaway Tuesday

The Hukilau

On Tuesday (March 3), The Hukilau will be unveiling a contest that will give participants a chance to win the official 2015 event mug by Tiki Diablo.

You must have a past mug (or mugs) from The Hukilau and an Instagram account to enter. Follow The Hukilau and check the Facebook page for more info.

The annual Polynesian Pop weekender will be held June 10-14 at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Musical guests and performers include Alika Lyman Group, The Intoxicators, Gold Dust Lounge, Pablus, Slip and the Spinouts, Kinky Waikiki, Skinny Jimmy Stingray, Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid, and King Kukulele. Symposium presenters are Arthur Dong, Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and Brian Miller, Domenic Priore, Jeff Chenault, plus Jon Bortles and Tiki Gardener.

Get your wristbands and symposium tickets now at TheHukilau.com before they sell out. The 14th annual Tiki weekender will also include two one-of-a-kind events: The Tiki Tower Takeover featuring Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (Latitude 29, New Orleans), Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco), Paul McGee (Lost Lake, Chicago) and Brian Miller (Tiki Mondays With Miller, New York City) mixing up special cocktails in the Pier Top Lounge. And a special “Three Hour Tour” cruise with actress Dawn Wells, aka Mary Ann on classic TV show Gilligan’s Island.

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (March 2, 2015): The Hukilau mug giveaway, Bacardi cocktail champ, $153,400 Tiki Room bird”

The Week in Tiki (Feb. 24, 2015): NYC’s Miller takes Emeril’s Tiki showdown, Bacardi seeks new classic cocktails

The Week in TikiTiki, rum and cocktails are making news this week. We have the results of “The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown” hosted by Emeril Lagasse at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, plus coverage of The Mai-Kai’s “secret cocktails” event. We preview the Legacy National Cocktail Competition, sponsored by Bacardi and held in Miami. Other news includes the Instro Summit surf music fest lineup, two special concerts in Tampa Bay, Chicago Area Tiki Tour tickets, and the auction of a massive collection of Tiki artifacts from Disneyland and Disney World. Our weekly features spotlight LeRoy Schmaltz of Oceanic Arts, The Pegu Blog, Double Crown Records, and Hale Pele in Portland. The rum of the week, Ron Zacapa 23 from Guatemala, is featured in the Zacapa Hurricane cocktail.
* Keep up with The Week in Tiki: Facebook page | RSS feed | See past weeks | Archive
* Weekly features: Artist | Website | Band/music | Tiki bar | Rum | Cocktail | Events

LAST WEEK IN REVIEW (Feb. 16-23, 2015)

Brian Miller wins Emeril’s Tiki showdown

Brian Miller (Tiki Mondays With Miller, New York City) accepts the top prize, the Judge’s Choice award, from Emeril Lagasse.
Brian Miller (Tiki Mondays With Miller, New York City) accepts the top prize, the Judge’s Choice award, from Emeril Lagasse.

The big news out of Friday night’s “The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown” during the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, besides the Judge’s Choice award won by Brian Miller, was the New York City bartender’s announcement that he wanted to leave the Big Apple for Los Angeles. Grasping his $5,000 prize, Miller said he hoped to “take a seat at the big boys’ table” and “hopefully pick up where Don (the Beachcomber) left off.”

However, Miller later had a change of heart, and said he realized that “New York City is where I want to be right now.” Miller wowed the judges with his Pain Reliever cocktail, served up during a three-hour party at the Shore Club on South Beach. Miami Beach craft cocktail bar The Broken Shaker won the People’s Choice award for the creative Paradise Found. The event was hosted by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, who was joined at the judging table by Tiki luminaries Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and Martin Cate, plus rum ambassador Lynnette Marrero. World-class chefs provides small bites as more than 700 attendees made the rounds of booths that featured some of the country’s top Tiki mixologists.

Other participants were The Mai-Kai (Fort Lauderdale), Frankie’s Tiki Room (Las Vegas), Royal Kona Resort (Hawaii), The Rum Line (Miami Beach), and Sunny’s (Miami). The win is just the latest feather in Miller’s cap. With his change of heart, a crucial loss to the New York Tiki scene has been averted.

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Feb. 24, 2015): NYC’s Miller takes Emeril’s Tiki showdown, Bacardi seeks new classic cocktails”

Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto design, merchandise revealed during Mahaloween event at Disneyland

UPDATES: Disney rushes to finish Polynesian renovations, Trader Sam’s (March 2015)

Fans of the much-anticipated Tiki bar coming soon to the Polynesian Village Resort at Walt Disney World were treated to a sneak preview during the inaugural Mahaloween Luau at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel. Disney Imagineers showed off a logo T-shirt and several mug prototypes, along with some insight on the design and theming of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto.

See below: Tikiman’s Mahaloween recap, photos | Polynesian Village Resort updates
Bonus cocktail recipe: A tribute to the Uh Oa! from Trader Sam’s
Past coverage: Say aloha to Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney’s Polynesian Village
See all our updates on the Polynesian refurbishment

A T-shirt featuring a Trader Sam's Grog Grotto logo was displayed at Mahaloween Luau on Sept. 29
A T-shirt featuring a Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto logo was displayed at Mahaloween Luau on Sept. 29. (Photo by EPCOT Explorer)

The event on Monday, Sept. 29, was a seasonal-themed party that included food and drinks, live music, exclusive merchandise, and a presentation by Walt Disney Imagineering on the past, present and future of Tiki at the Disney parks. Among those in attendance was Steve “Tikiman” Seifert, who keeps fans of the Polynesian Village Resort updated on all the recent changes and refurbishments with his authoritative website and Facebook page. Seifert kept an eye out for news on the Polynesian and the Grog Grotto, and he gave us a full report after the event. Check out his photos and more insights on Mahaloween below. Thanks also to EPCOT Explorer for his photos.

Amid all the construction and re-imagining of the Polynesian, Disney has released very little info about its new Trader Sam’s outpost in Orlando since a big announcement and release of concept art on May 2 [See The Atomic Grog’s story and photos]. And while Imagineers Brandon Kleyla and Kyle Barnes didn’t drop any bombshells, they did provide a few visual and informational treats. Kleyla, in fact, was wearing an orange T-shirt featuring a Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto logo that will likely soon become a merchandise item. A blue shirt was also shown during the presentation. Kleyla, who grew up in Florida and frequented Disney World in his youth, was the Imagineering set decorator for Trader Sam’s in Anaheim, bringing to life an immersive environment that borrows heavily from classic Disney attractions such at the Jungle Cruise, Enchanted Tiki Room and Adventurer’s Club [See interview].

Veteran Imagineer Kyle Barnes, who had a lead role in the Disneyland Hotel bar’s design, took the mic to talk about the concept behind Disney’s second lounge “owned” by Trader Sam, the infamous “head salesman” on the Jungle Cruise attraction at Disneyland and Disney World. Barnes said that while the Disneyland location celebrates the Jungle Cruise and a 1930s African Queen aesthetic, the Disney World bar will synch up with the Magic Kingdom and feature more of a “technicolor” look and feel.

One of the new mug designs for the Polynesian Village Resort, as seen at Mahaloween Luau at Disneyland
One of the new mug designs for the Polynesian Village Resort, as seen at Mahaloween Luau at Disneyland. (Photo by EPCOT Explorer)

Barnes also confirmed suspicions that have made the rounds since the concept art was released showing a giant squid tentacle behind the bar [See photo]. The Grog Grotto will celebrate the classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, “with various props from that attraction,” he said.

A nautical theme makes perfect sense considering a grotto is often a small cave near water. And it will be located just across Seven Seas Lagoon from the Magic Kingdom and Adventureland, which includes Trader Sam’s home in the exotic rivers of the Jungle Cruise, as well as the animatronic tikis in the Enchanted Tiki Room. The T-shirt logo also includes a giant squid, so don’t be surprised if the Grog Grotto features a backstory about Sam’s adventures on and beneath the sea.

Continue reading “Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto design, merchandise revealed during Mahaloween event at Disneyland”

Say aloha to Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

UPDATES: Disney rushes to finish Polynesian renovations, Trader Sam’s (March 2015)
Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto design, merchandise revealed (October 2014)

At the colorful crossroads where Disneyphiles and Tikiphiles meet, there’s a new date to be honored and celebrated annually with a rum-fueled fervor. May 2 will forever be known as the day that Trader Sam packed up his collection of curios and headed to Disney World.

Bonus cocktail recipe: The Trader’s Polynesian Aloha Grog
Past coverage: See all our updates on the Polynesian refurbishment

A rendering provided by Disney World shows Trader Sam's Grog Grotto as it may appear at Disney World when it opens in 2015
A rendering provided by Disney World shows Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto as it may appear at Disney World when it opens in 2015. Note the tribute to ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.’

His final destination: Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, the reimagined flagship hotel that has been rechristened with its original name from 1971’s grand opening, the day Disney World opened its gates in Orlando. More than 42 years later, the vintage South Seas-themed luxury hotel is in the midst of one of its largest refurbishments ever.

And what a name he has chosen for his newest Tiki lounge: Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, which promises to expand on the Adventureland-meets-Adventurer’s Club vibe of his original location, Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel. To celebrate Sam’s imminent arrival, we’ve concocted a welcome-to-Florida grog, which you can find below.

After years of speculation and unconfirmed reports, Walt Disney World Resort President George A. Kalogridis made the announcement on Friday, May 2, confirming what everyone could see happening at Disney’s Polynesian Resort and putting all rumors to rest: “This year, we started reimagining the feature pool, and the centerpiece of the iconic resort, the Great Ceremonial House. We’re also adding Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, inspired by the guest favorite at Disneyland. Trader Sam’s will continue the evolution of food and beverage offerings across our parks and resorts.”

Continue reading “Say aloha to Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort”

Disney World announces refurbishment schedule for Polynesian Resort, but no word on Trader Sam’s

UPDATES: Disney rushes to finish Polynesian renovations, Trader Sam’s (March 2015)
Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto design, merchandise revealed (October 2014)
Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto coming to Disney’s Polynesian Village (May 2014)

One year from now, stepping into Disney’s Polynesian Resort in Orlando could be a much different experience. With construction on the 42-year-old iconic hotel’s timeshare additions in full swing, work appears to be moving forward on the resort’s nerve center, the Great Ceremonial House.

Previous post: Trader Sam’s could be key part of Disney’s Polynesian Resort refurb

Construction sign at Disney's Polynesian Resort
Construction sign at Disney’s Polynesian Resort.

Last week, Disney World officially announced that the Great Ceremonial House – the giant A-frame building designed after a Tahitian royal assembly lodge – will be refurbished from March through December. Capt. Cook’s, the 24-hour quick-service restaurant perhaps most well-known for its self-service Dole Whip machine, will be closed during dates to be announced from some time in March until June. The adjacent Wyland Gallery has already closed and won’t be re-opening. No other specific restaurant or store closings or changes have been officially announced.

Disney is tight-lipped, as usual, about exactly what the Great Ceremonial House will look like when work is complete. But Polynesian insider Steve Seifert is reporting on his authoritative Tikiman Pages website that the long-rumored addition of Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar is expected to be completed by February 2015. This report, along with all the official dates, comes with the usual caveat that Disney reserves the right to take as much time as it needs, pushing projects well into the future.

Continue reading “Disney World announces refurbishment schedule for Polynesian Resort, but no word on Trader Sam’s”

Update: Trader Sam’s could be key part of Disney World’s Polynesian Resort refurbishment

UPDATES: Get the latest news on Trader Sam’s and the Polynesian refurbishment
Bonus cocktail recipe: Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Rum at Trader Sam’s

New reports have surfaced about renovations at Disney World’s Polynesian Resort that indicate the precise location of Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar, plus a subtle re-theming in the spirit of the Disney parks’ iconic Adventureland. The massive construction project that may eventually bring the popular Disneyland lounge to the East Coast now appears certain to begin in September.

The Monorail passes Disney World's Polynesian Resort.
The Monorail passes Disney World’s Polynesian Resort. (Disney photo)

As recently reported here and elsewhere, new information suggests that Trader Sam’s is slated to be included in renovations that will bring timeshare buildings to the Orlando resort. Some of these may include traditional Tahitian huts built over Seven Seas Lagoon with a view of the Magic Kingdom park.

Now, finally, there are confirmed reports that the construction is about to begin. On Aug. 16, the venerable Touring Plans website posted news on its blog that a renovation project at the hotel may affect some of the guest rooms in the Hawaii, Tokelau, Rapa Nui and Tahiti longhouse buildings beginning in September.

The construction will also affect the east parking lot near Rapa Nui as well as beach access on that side of the resort, including the Sunset Point area. The Touring Plans blog makes it clear that there has been no announcement from Disney about the addition of Disney Vacation Club timeshare villas at the Polynesian, but this is not unusual. DVC additions to the nearby Grand Floridian Resort were not announced until construction was well under way.

Continue reading “Update: Trader Sam’s could be key part of Disney World’s Polynesian Resort refurbishment”

Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar one of many changes likely coming to Disney’s Polynesian Resort

UPDATES: Get the latest news on Trader Sam’s and the Polynesian refurbishment
Bonus cocktail recipe: The Backscratcher at the Polynesian Resort’s Tambu Lounge

Reports have recently surfaced that indicate the eventual Orlando location of Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar may not be the revamped Downtown Disney complex, as indicated earlier this year, but rather Walt Disney World’s iconic 39-acre Polynesian Resort near the Magic Kingdom theme park.

Disney's Polynesian Resort, October 2011
Disney’s Polynesian Resort, October 2011. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

In March, Disney Springs was officially announced as the successor to Downtown Disney, the massive shopping and entertainment district on Disney World property but outside its theme parks. The 120-acre lakefront site is expected to expand from 75 to more than 150 stores, restaurants, bars and more. Slated for completion in 2016, the refurb will create a replica of a 19th century Florida waterfront town. [See The Atomic Grog’s full report here]

Disney released elaborate conceptual artwork and many details on the theming of Disney Springs, but little info on what retailers or restaurants would be part of the new development. This is understandable since many deals are likely still being negotiated, and the exact locations of various businesses are still being fleshed out. But this didn’t keep the rumor mill from churning, especially when images leaked out online that show dozens of logos of potential venues.

On this list was the distinctive logo of Trader Sam’s, already a must-see destination for Disney and Tiki fans after only two years at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim. The bar features classic Polynesian decor, cocktails and food plus an extra helping of Disney Imagineering magic. The theming evokes both classic attractions (Jungle Cruise, Enchanted Tiki Room) and a beloved, defunct Downtown Disney cabaret (the Adventurer’s Club). So this potential location made some sense. But was it really a good fit considering the overall theme?

Continue reading “Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar one of many changes likely coming to Disney’s Polynesian Resort”

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