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Mai-Kai update (January 2024): Renovations engulf entire property, reopening estimated for summer

Mai-Kai update (January 2024): Renovations engulf entire property, reopening estimated for summer

The multimillion-dollar reimagination of The Mai-Kai is an unprecedented project in its size and scope as a local and national historic landmark restaurant. Since worked kicked off in 2022, projects have touched nearly every corner of the 67-year-old, 2.7-acre property in South Florida.

Jump below: Latest news on the refurbishments | Timeline of current projects

The first phase of the multi-year, multimillion-dollar restoration of The Mai-Kai is expected to be completed in summer 2024. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, January 2024)
The first phase of the multi-year, multimillion-dollar restoration of The Mai-Kai is expected to be completed in summer 2024. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, January 2024)

Now, as 2024 brings us into the home stretch, interest is building not only for updates on the status of the renovations, but also for news on a potential reopening date. Closed since an October 2020 roof collapse irreparably damaged the 1970s-era kitchen, The Mai-Kai is on track to have guests return this year. The only question is exactly when?

Unfortunately, that question will probably not be answered with accuracy until it’s much closer to the finish line. Project timelines can change on a dime, and most of the final hurdles will be left in the hands of inspectors and government officials in Broward County and the city of Oakland Park.

Until then, we’ll take any news we can get. We were able to confirm the accuracy of the latest projection, shared on the restaurant’s official Instagram page: “We are now looking at this summer,” said the comment on a Jan. 23 posting in response to questions about the reopening date.

Recent coverage
* Mai-Kai refurbishment 2023 year-end recap: Updates, photos, timeline
* Beyond Bora Bora: Reimagination of Mai-Kai entry experience evokes original vision

Artist Scott "Flounder" Scheidly shared photos on Instagram of his work cleaning up one of The Mai-Kai's last remaining Oceanic Arts wooden masks
Artist Scott “Flounder” Scheidly shared photos on Instagram of his work cleaning up one of The Mai-Kai’s last remaining Oceanic Arts wooden masks. “Luckily this was protected under the porte-cochère out front but will be relocated to the inside for preservation,” he wrote.

Organizers of The Hukilau, the annual Tiki weekender in nearby Pompano Beach, are making two sets of plans for their June 6-9 event. Plan A would include events at a fully reopened Mai-Kai, while Plan B would feature limited access and sneak previews, perhaps cocktails and entertainment. The general consensus among Hukilau organizers, which include Mai-Kai investor Richard Oneslager and public relations director Pia Dahlquist, is that there’s a 50-50 chance of either plan happening. In the coming weeks, we’ll have more news on The Hukilau, which has included The Mai-Kai in its festivities since its second year in 2003.

In the meantime, we made our first visit of the new year to the property that straddles the Oakland Park border with Fort Lauderdale on Federal Highway. You can find our observations and photos below, along with updates from manager Kern Mattei and creative director “Typhoon Tommy” Allsmiller.

Continue reading “Mai-Kai update (January 2024): Renovations engulf entire property, reopening estimated for summer”

Minimalist Tiki

BREAKING NEWS: The Mai-Kai officially begins work on first phase of $8.5 million renovation projects

The Mai-Kai officially begins work on first phase of $8.5 million renovation projects

There was no fancy groundbreaking or ribbon cutting, but March 6 was a significant date in the long journey toward the restoration and reimagination of The Mai-Kai, southeast Florida’s historic Polynesian restaurant. That’s when work officially began on three different projects that had been stalled for months awaiting building permits.

The Mai-Kai received final approval of three key building permits on March 3, clearing the way for major projects to begin. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward / March 9, 2023)
The Mai-Kai received final approval of three key building permits on March 3, clearing the way for major projects to begin. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward / March 9, 2023)

The city of Oakland Park’s Development Review Committee approved the site plan at a Jan. 26 meeting, but details remained to be ironed out as they made their way through the governmental process before permits could be issued. Committee approval was considered to be the final hurdle, so the wait to get started seemed interminable for the owners and staff, who have been planning the massive renovations for nearly a year while working on smaller restoration projects.

But even those projects became bogged down due to The Mai-Kai’s status as a local and national historic landmark. For example, work on replacing old thatched roofing, which began in late summer, had to stop in October and await multiple approvals. On Jan. 11, the city’s Historic Preservation Board unanimously approved both Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the ambitious $8.5 million project.

That left the 10-member Development Review Committee, composed of officials from various departments and disciplines across the city, to weigh in and give the project a green light. The approval, also unanimous, ended up being a flashing red light for five weeks as the general contractor and others waited at the starting line, engines idling.

Workers were busy shoring up The Mai-Kai's porte-cochère on Thursday, March 9. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
Workers were busy shoring up The Mai-Kai’s porte-cochère on Thursday, March 9. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The three long-awaited permits finally came through on Friday, March 3, joining an earlier approval that will together enable The Mai-Kai to move full-steam ahead in an effort to re-open the beloved restaurant in late 2023. It has been closed since Oct. 25, 2020, when a catastrophic roof collapse over the kitchen rendered the 26,000-square-foot restaurant unable to serve diners for the first time in its 66-year history.

After more than two years of downtime, not a minute was wasted in kick-starting work on multiple fronts last week. While you may not yet notice anything new as you drive by the 2.7 acres at 3599 N. Federal Highway (aka U.S. 1) northwest of coastal Fort Lauderdale, there’s a lot going on inside and to the rear of the property. Work started on Monday, March 6, and by the time I visited on Thursday, March 9, the property was abuzz with activity. “It’s been kind of a whirlwind” since the permits were approved, said manager Kern Mattei, who deals with most of the on-site logistics. “We’ve been super busy.”

Guests picking up take-out cocktails this week should be able to get a peek at some of the action. Just be aware that construction may require the closure of some areas of the parking lot, so keep an eye out for updated directions and those ubiquitous orange cones.

The Atomic Grog’s exclusive coverage of The Mai-Kai renovations
* New details on restaurant’s reimagination, new merchandise revealed at Inuhele in Atlanta
* Oakland Park’s Historic Preservation Board OKs plans, clears way for project to move forward

A slide shown at the Oakland Park Historic Preservation Board meeting on Jan. 11, where the removal of the Bora Bora building was unanimously approved. The project is out for bid and will begin soon.
A slide shown at the Oakland Park Historic Preservation Board meeting on Jan. 11, where the removal of the Bora Bora building was unanimously approved. The project is out for bid and will begin soon.

Mattei gave me an overview of The Mai-Kai’s current state along with plans for projects relating to all three permits, graciously allowing me a peek behind the scenes on March 9. Many of the photos above and below were taken during that visit. Here’s a synopsis of the three permits issued March 3 and the projects they encompass:

* Removal of the Bora Bora building. An essential first step in the total reimagination of The Mai-Kai’s entry and parking lot experience, this will be the first project to be completed. Mattei said that the demolition job is out for bid by the general contractor. Once a firm is selected, the removal of the building will likely happen quickly, since the permit expires May 2. In the meantime, Mattei said, he and creative director “Typhoon Tommy” Allsmiller are overseeing the removal of all salvageable pieces from the historic building, which dates back to the early 1960s and has been vacant since it was damaged by Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Once the building is removed, the massive landscaping project can begin.

* Repair and restoration of the porte-cochère and thatched roofing. Already underway since last year but now four months behind schedule after work was halted, this project was quickly re-started last week. Workers on hydraulic lifts were busy shoring up the crossbeams of the soaring A-frame structure. Allsmiller will lead an effort to repair the stylized extension on the peak of the A-frame, restoring it back to its original design. Realistic synthetic thatch approved by the city will then cover the entire roof. The thatching project will also include The Mai-Kai’s massive main A-frame, along with the two smaller peaked roofs over the back dining rooms that are nearly complete. Wood, thatch, and other materials were already on site March 9, awaiting installation by South Florida’s Tiki King. The porte-cochère permit doesn’t expire until Aug. 30. A separate re-roofing permit is “in review,” the step before approval. The previous roofing permit expired March 2.

A view inside The Mai-Kai's former kitchen on March 9. The brown steel beams will go on the roof to support the new air-conditioning system. To the bottom right is bamboo and thatch awaiting installation on the A-frame roofs. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
A view inside The Mai-Kai’s former kitchen on March 9. The brown steel beams will go on the roof to support the new air-conditioning system. To the bottom right is bamboo and thatch awaiting installation on the A-frame roofs. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

* Interior renovation, including a new bar and kitchen. Also running through Aug. 30, this over-arching permit allows The Mai-Kai to install a temporary kitchen in space that onece contained back-of-house offices. A permit that was issued last May (expiring Aug. 8) covers the installation of a new air-conditioning system on all of the completed roofs. Steel beams that will go onto the roof to support the AC units are ready and waiting, painted to blend in with the decor. The general contractor was working in the old staff locker rooms March 9, peeling off the drywall and ceiling. I did not get a look at this, since it was a hard-hat area, but we know from the plans that this will be the location of the new permanent back bar. The provisional kitchen is a stopgap measure to get the restaurant up and running as quickly as possible, albeit with a limited menu. The buildout of a full kitchen will be part of Phase 2, estimated to be a year or more down the road. The second phase will also include the event center, which will be built next to the kitchen in what was once storage space.

Continue reading “BREAKING NEWS: The Mai-Kai officially begins work on first phase of $8.5 million renovation projects”

The Atomic Grog 10th anniversary: Beware! Deadly Zombies ahead

The Atomic Grog 10th anniversary: Beware! Deadly Zombies ahead

Has it really been 10 years? For a humble blog focused on Tiki culture and cocktails, that’s an eternity. After a decade of existence, we continue to be humbled by the recognition and continued support from peers and supporters. Even so, we hope that the best is yet to come.
Special 10th anniversary recipe: Revenge of the Atomic Zombie Cocktail

The Atomic Grog launched in late April 2011 with coverage of Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s “Zombie Jamboree” at The Mai-Kai, our participation in the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival’s deadly cocktail competition, our first published cocktail recipe, and lots more …

We be Jammin: Rum Renaissance Zombie fest at The Mai-Kai
We be Jammin: Rum Renaissance Zombie fest at The Mai-Kai
The kickoff party for the 2011 Rum Renaissance Festival was a Tikiphile’s dream, featuring a Jeff “Beachbum” Berry cocktail seminar followed by a deadly mixology competition.
Recipe: Wake the dead, it’s time for the Atomic Zombie Cocktail

Now, 447 posts and more than 1 million page views later, it’s time to take a quick look back and offer a big mahalo to everyone and everything that has kept us motivated and writing. That includes all the folks who posted more than 600 comments on the site, overwhelmingly positive and informative.

The first post – on April 25, 2011 – was a Zombie recipe, so it’s fitting that we celebrate the 10th anniversary of this never-say-die blog with a horde of Zombies. While the Mai Tai seems to get all the attention, 10 years later we still maintain that Tiki’s original masterpiece, created by Don the Beachcomber in the 1930s, is the most epochal tropical cocktail. Perhaps it’s apropos that the Zombie never becomes trendy and stays “underground,” but we’d like to see it get more attention.

The Atomic Grog

So in honor of our 10th anniversary, we’ll be posting 10 new Zombie recipes over the next 10 months. We’ve already kicked it off with the Hamilton Zombie, featured in the recent story on the new Zombie blend from Beachbum Berry and Hamilton Rum. It continues today with a reimagining of that first recipe. Get ready for Revenge of the Atomic Zombie Cocktail, even richer and more deadly than the original.

As usual, you’ll be treated to the recipe at the end of this post. Look for new Zombie recipes approximately every month, pushing the envelope of this classic template but remaining true to Donn’s inventive spirit. Unlike the Mai Tai, there’s no controversy in tinkering with the Zombie. We hope to prove this makes it even more enduring and classic. Lots more Zombie lore and discussion to come.

We’re digging up another popular old concept for our 10th birthday: The good old-fashioned Top 10 list. It may be a cliché of the blogosphere and something we’ve avoided for a decade, but there’s nothing wrong with a carefully crafted Top 10. We’ll start with five in this post, with more “Tiki Top 10” lists to come over the next 10 months (and maybe continuing into the future) …

Continue reading “The Atomic Grog 10th anniversary: Beware! Deadly Zombies ahead”

Photos: 10 highlights from The Hukilau 2019 in Fort Lauderdale

Photos: 10 highlights from The Hukilau 2019 in Fort Lauderdale

NOTE: The Hukilau 2020 was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. A series of online events was held in its place. The 2019 recap below was posted before the pandemic. The Hukilau is returning to a live format in September 2021.

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The Hukilau’s 2020 entertainment lineup will be announced on Feb. 3, when event tickets and passes go on sale for the 19th annual Tiki weekender June 3-7 in Fort Lauderdale. While The Mai-Kai remains the nerve center of the Polynesian Pop celebration for the 18th straight year, most of the festivities will be centered at the B Ocean Resort on Fort Lauderdale Beach.

After five years as host hotel, the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina closed for a years-long refurbishment and re-imagining on the day after The Hukilau 2019. To give you a preview of what you can expect during the whirlwind weekend, following is a look back at last year’s festivities. While this Top 10 list is nowhere near complete in capturing the diversity of activities that encompassed the five-day bash, it offers a snapshot of some of the more memorable moments.

See below: Bonus cocktail recipes from the Rum Island Pool Parties
Passion Fruit West Indies (Pagan Idol) | Playboy (Tiki Underground)

The Hukilau 2019 was held June 5-9 at the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina, B Ocean Resort and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Featuring Tikiyaki Orchestra, Tikiyaki 5-0, Surfer Joe, The Volcanics, The Hula Girls, The Intoxicators, Gold Dust Lounge, Skinny Jimmy Stingray, The Swingin’ Palms, Slowey and the Boats, King Kukulele, Brother Cleve, Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid, Ian “Rum Ambassador” Burrell, and 25 top Tiki bars and bartenders from around the world.
* TheHukilau.com | Facebook: Page and Group | Instagram
Previous recap: The Hukilau 2019 photos and video from social media

Mahalo to the venues, the organizers, all the participants and (especially) all the villagers who attended. Special thanks to those who provided photos for use below. Here’s a sampling of what we enjoyed, in no particular order …

Continue reading “Photos: 10 highlights from The Hukilau 2019 in Fort Lauderdale”

The Hukilau 2019 latest news and updates

Updated Jan. 23, 2020

Photos: 10 highlights from The Hukilau 2019 in Fort Lauderdale NEW
Photos: 10 highlights from The Hukilau 2019 in Fort Lauderdale
Take a look back at the five days of festivities at Pier Sixty-Six and The Mai-Kai with dozens of photos and many memorable moments, plus two bonus cocktail recipes.

The Hukilau 2019 rewind: Photos and video from social media
The Intoxicators play Friday night's High Tide party at Pier 66 during The Hukilau 2019. (Photo by Hukilau Mike)
>>>> SOCIAL POSTS FROM THE ATOMIC GROG AND VILLAGERS

The Hukilau 2019: Women of Tiki take over the tower
The Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau 2019
Thursday, June 6, was tropical cocktail heaven during the opening festivities of The Hukilau at Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina in Fort Lauderdale. The signature Tiki Tower Takeover cocktail party included eight of the world’s top female Tiki bartenders. Between sampling all the delicious drinks, hanging out with friends and enjoying the gorgeous views from the 17th-floor Pier Top Lounge, we managed to snap a few photos. Coming soon, a blog recap featuring more photos plus cocktail reviews and ratings.
>>>> CLICK HERE FOR THE FACEBOOK PHOTO GALLERY

MORE RECAPS COMING SOON

Continue reading “The Hukilau 2019 latest news and updates”

The Hukilau 2019 update: Last party at Pier Sixty-Six? Rooms, events selling fast as new cocktail classes added

The Hukilau 2019 update: Last party at Pier Sixty-Six? Rooms, events selling fast as new cocktail classes added
The Rums of The Mai-Kai with Hurricane Hayward
New cocktail classes on sale: The Rums of The Mai-Kai with Hurricane Hayward and Tiki Mayhem with Daniele Dalla Pola, Georgi Radev and Ian Burrell. Click here or scroll down for details
NEW: Full preview of The Rums of The Mai-Kai, presented by The Atomic Grog

Updated June 1
Click here for updates on sold-out events, see the full schedule:
The Hukilau 2019 Pier 66 map
NEW: THE HUKILAU 2019 – Unofficial Schedule
Due to popular demand, The Atomic Grog presents a handy-dandy schedule in spreadsheet format for all five days of the upcoming Tiki weekender in Fort Lauderdale, including lots of new info like band set times, Saturday night at The Mai-Kai and more. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL SCHEDULE

As The Hukilau fast approaches its 18th annual Tiki weekender in Fort Lauderdale in June, hotel rooms at the host Pier Sixty-Six are sold out, and the more popular symposiums and classes are filling up. But new events are still being added, including a Saturday cocktail class and Sunday symposium on the rums of The Mai-Kai hosted by The Atomic Grog.
* More below: Passes available | Special event tickets | Pop-up Tiki bars | New, upcoming

More on The Atomic Grog: Tiki Tower Takeover sold out – Preview, photos and complete history

Meanwhile, news just broke that Pier Sixty-Six will be closing for a massive two-year renovation immediately after The Hukilau 2019. This news is not unexpected, and plans for a new 2020 site have been in the works. “There should be no uncertainty that we will have a great venue for 2020,” said The Hukilau’s owner/organizer, Richard Oneslager. “I do think it’s the end of an era at Pier Sixty-Six, and it is special that we get to cap it off.”
See more below: Is this the last fling at Pier Sixty-Six?

The Hukilau: Wednesday through Sunday, June 5-9, 2019, at the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina, B Ocean Resort and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Featuring Tikiyaki Orchestra, Tikiyaki 5-0, Surfer Joe, The Volcanics, The Hula Girls, The Intoxicators, The Disasternauts, Gold Dust Lounge, Skinny Jimmy Stingray, The Swingin’ Palms, Slowey and the Boats, King Kukulele, Brother Cleve, Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid, Ian “Rum Ambassador” Burrell, and 25 top Tiki bars and bartenders from around the world.
* TheHukilau.com | Facebook: Page and Group
ORDER NOW: Get your multi-day passes and individual event tickets
SCHEDULE: Check to see what’s happening on all five days

The Hukilau 2019 designs by French artist Baï
The Hukilau 2019 designs above and below by French artist Baï.
(Click above for larger version)

Pier Sixty-Six, a landmark property developed in 1956 on the Intracoastal Waterway and home of The Hukilau since 2015, has sold out of rooms for the event. But The Hukilau organizers have lined up a great back-up option less than a mile away, directly on Fort Lauderdale Beach. The recently renovated B Ocean Resort, formerly known as the iconic Yankee Clipper, has plenty of rooms at a special rate for villagers attending the festive Polynesian Pop party.

Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid endorses her favorite rum during a swimshow at The Hukilau 2016. (Provided by Medusirena)
Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid endorses her favorite rum during a swimshow at The Hukilau 2016. (Provided by Medusirena)

Staying at “The B” also gives attendees easy access to The Wreck Bar and its porthole views of Medusirena, aka Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid and her retro revival swimshows featuring her “pod of aquaticats.” The Hukilau will provide a free shuttle between the hotels, running from breakfast until 2 a.m.
BOOK A ROOM: Click here for the link to get the special rate

Marina’s special shows for The Hukilau are always among the more popular events, and capacity is limited in The Wreck bar to allow all paid attendees prime viewing. So it’s advised that you act now if you don’t want to get left out. There are three performances on the schedule, but Wednesday night’s late-night burlesque show and Thursday’s 2 p.m. show are already sold out. Tickets remain only for the 2 p.m. matinee on Friday ($20 plus service charge).

Other sold-out tickets as of May 20:

Continue reading “The Hukilau 2019 update: Last party at Pier Sixty-Six? Rooms, events selling fast as new cocktail classes added”

Hukilau 2019: Tickets on sale, book your room now for June 5-9 bash in Fort Lauderdale

The Hukilau 2019

The Hukilau has announced an impressive lineup of bands, bars and booze experts as it launched a new website with tickets now on sale for the 18th annual Tiki weekender in Fort Lauderdale. Guests can also book rooms at two hotels: the host Pier 66 and the nearby B Ocean Resort.

The Hukilau 2019

Among the highlights:

First-time performances by Surfer Joe, The Volcanics, The Swingin’ Palms, and Slowey and the Boats. Plus these returning musicians and DJs: Tikiyaki Orchestra (and Tikiyaki 5-0), Brother Cleve, The Hula Girls, King Kukulele, The Intoxicators, Gold Dust Lounge, Skinny Jimmy Stingray, James Brown’s Sweat.

New guests bars from across the world: Laki Kane (London), Esotico (Miami), Archipelago (Washington, D.C.), 4 Kahunas (Arlington, Texas), Manolito (New Orleans), The Polynesian (New York City), Tiki TNT (Washington, D.C.), UnderTow (Phoenix), The Zombie Village (San Francisco), and Tiki Underground (Hudson, Ohio). Plus returnees Death Or Glory (Delray Beach), Dirty Dick (Paris), Flask & Cannon (Jacksonville), Foundation (Milwaukee), Hidden Harbor (Pittsburgh), Nu Lounge Bar (Italy), Three Dots and a Dash (Chicago), Pagan Idol (San Francisco), The S.O.S. (Atlanta), Tonga Hut (Los Angeles), and Trailer Happiness (London).

Tikiyaki Orchestra
Tikiyaki Orchestra

Women take over the Tiki Tower Takeover, featuring world-class mixologists Sierra Kirk (Hale Pele), Jeanie Grant (Pagan Idol), Libby Longlott (UnderTow), Sarah Clarke (Hidden Harbor), Shannon Mustipher (Gladys NYC), Phoebe Esmon (Curate), Ayme Harrison (Death or Glory), and Marie King (Tonga Hut).

New symposiums on Trader Vic’s (with granddaughter Eve Bergeron), Tiki mugs (with Tiki Diablo, Eekum Bookum, and Holden Westland of Tiki Farm), surf music (with Jon Paul Balak and Lorenzo “Surfer Joe” Valdambrini), rum and the British Navy (with Matt Pietrek, aka Cocktail Wonk), and home bars (with Ron Ferrell).

Special low-cost presentations on “Women of The Mai-Kai” and “Women Who Tiki” with many special guests.

The return of Ian “Rum Ambassador” Burrell for his “$1,000 Rum Tasting” and a new presentation with “rum professor” Stephen Remsberg.

Ian Burrell

Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy classes led by Ian Burrell, Matt Pietrek, Georgi Radev (Laki Kane), Kevin Beary (Three Dots and a Dash), Scotty Schuder (Dirty Dick), Adam Henry (Hidden Harbor), Ian Jones (The S.O.S), Jeanie Grant (Pagan Idol), and Shannon Mustipher (Gladys NYC).

More craft classes from South Florida artists Tom Fowner and Will Anders, plus California’s Tiki Tony. And Nicole Brauchler returns with another make-up class.

Three swimshows led by Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid at The Wreck Bar in the B Ocean Resort.

Continue reading “Hukilau 2019: Tickets on sale, book your room now for June 5-9 bash in Fort Lauderdale”

The Hukilau 2018 symposiums to include Disney Imagineer, Tiki on TV

An artist's rendering of Trader Sam's Grog Grotto at Disney World from Walt Disney Imagineering, and a photo from the grand opening in March 2015 (Atomic Grog photo)

Updated Feb. 8, 2018
Polynesian Pop has always been deeply ingrained in American culture, from Tiki’s mid-century heyday through today. This symbiotic relationship will be explored in colorful detail during special symposiums at The Hukilau, the 17th annual Tiki weekender happening June 6-10 in Fort Lauderdale.

Among the special presentations now on sale at TheHukilau.com are “Travel with Trader Sam” hosted by Disney Imagineer Kyle Barnes and “The Golden Age of Tiki and the South Pacific on Television” with film and video collector Ron Ferrell.

Disney's Kyle Barnes was art director of Trader Sam's Grog Grotto at Disney World and Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar at Disneyland. He also oversaw the 2015 refurbishment of Disney's Polynesian Village Resort in Orlando. (Contributed photos)
Disney’s Kyle Barnes was art director of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney World and Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at Disneyland. He also oversaw the 2015 refurbishment of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort in Orlando (left). (Contributed photos)

The Hukilau: June 6-10, 2018, at the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.
* TheHukilau.com | Facebook: Page and Group | Twitter | Instagram
Quick links: Tickets | Book hotel | Symposiums | Schedule
Previous story: The Hukilau 2018: More bands, more bars, more Tiki!

Guests who buy multi-day passes get first shot at these and other educational activities, including Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy classes and rum tastings, craft classes with noted artists, plus many other hands-on activities. Also on sale are tickets to the three aquatic performances by Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid and her pod of aquaticats at The Wreck Bar at the nearby B Ocean Resort.

Previously announced were symposiums by special guests including rum and cocktail luminaries Ian Burrell and Brother Cleve, craft classes with South Florida artists Tom Fowner and Will Anders, “go-go aerobics” with burlesque queen Angie Pontani, a mid-century makeup symposium, plus hula lessons. The symposiums and craft classes range from $10 to $25, with most priced at just $15. This is a reduction from years past intended to offset a slight rise in the price of passes, which run from $175 to $399.

Here’s a preview of the new symposiums and classes:

An artist's rendering of Trader Sam's Grog Grotto at Disney World from Walt Disney Imagineering, and a photo from the grand opening in March 2015 (Atomic Grog photo)
An artist’s rendering of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney World from Walt Disney Imagineering, and a photo from the grand opening in March 2015. (Atomic Grog photo)

* “Travel with Trader Sam” with Kyle Barnes (Friday, June 8): What made the Jungle Cruise’s head salesman venture beyond Adventureland? Why open his first cocktail outpost at the Disneyland resort? How did he land on the shores of Seven Seas Lagoon at Walt Disney World? Veteran Walt Disney Imagineer Kyle Barnes will answer these questions and share rarely seen details from the design and development of both locations of Disney’s popular Tiki bar concept.
* Related: Say ‘Aloha’ to Disney’s revamped Polynesian resort
* On The Atomic Grog: Trader Sam’s profile | Kyle Barnes at Mahaloween 2014

* “The Golden Age of Tiki and the South Pacific on Television” with Ron Ferrell (Saturday, June 9): An exclusive look at how Polynesia was represented during the golden age of television. See clips and enjoy the commentary as Tikiphile and cinema fan Ferrell shares his collection of film and video of Tiki and Polynesian pop from Hollywood, TV shows, and commercials.

At The Hukilau 2017, villagers had the opportunity to participate in classes ranging from Tiki carving, to cocktails (with Chicago's Three Dots and a Dash), to rum tasting. (Photos by Heather McKean)
At The Hukilau 2017, villagers had the opportunity to participate in classes ranging from Tiki carving, to cocktails (with Chicago’s Three Dots and a Dash), to rum tasting. (Photos by Heather McKean)

Updates: The presentation “The Rise, The Fall, The Resurrection, The Redemption” by Boston-based music, Tiki and cocktail pioneer Brother Cleve will be held on Friday. Global rum ambassador Ian Burrell will host his symposium “Who’s Your Daddy? The Pina Colada Paternity Test” on Friday and a rare rum tasting on Saturday. Still to be added to the schedule: A Tiki history symposium in the works from Tim “Swanky” Glazner, author of Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant, (2016).

Continue reading “The Hukilau 2018 symposiums to include Disney Imagineer, Tiki on TV”

The Hukilau 2018 tickets on sale now: More bands, more bars, more Tiki!

The Hukilau 2018

Updated Feb. 8, 2018
The Hukilau gave its loyal fans a New Year’s treat by announcing an expanded lineup for the East Coast’s largest Tiki-themed event, giving its regular “villagers” early access and discounts on tickets. The general public can now join the party at the 17th annual mash-up of Polynesian Pop and cocktail culture.

UPDATE: The Hukilau 2018 symposiums to include Disney imagineer, Tiki on TV

The Hukilau 2018

The Hukilau: June 6-10, 2018, at the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.
* TheHukilau.com | Facebook: Page and Group | Twitter | Instagram
Quick links: Tickets | Book hotel | Schedule | Bands, bars, VIPs
Previous story: Rum Renaissance Festival moves next door to The Hukilau, creating ultimate rum and Tiki weekend
See below: Bonus cocktail recipes
* Three Dots and a Dash from Three Dots and a Dash
* Nu Nui Nui from Daniele Dalla Pola of the Nu Lounge

Here are the highlights of the announcement, sent via email and posted on the official website. I also spoke directly with the event’s owner and co-organizer, Richard Oneslager, to get all the scoop on 2018. NEW: As of Feb. 8, this preview is now updated with the late January announcement.

Party like it's 2009: Los Straitjackets (left) will headline The Hukilau for a second time, while The Intoxicators will make their 13th appearance at the Tiki party in Fort Lauderdale. (Photos from The Hukilau 2009)
Party like it’s 2009: Los Straitjackets (left) will headline The Hukilau for a second time, while The Intoxicators will make their 13th appearance at the Tiki party in Fort Lauderdale. (Photos from The Hukilau 2009)

PREVIEW: The Hukilau 2018 highlights

* MUSIC: More headlining bands. The 2018 event will include some of the world’s top surf and exotica bands, including Los Straitjackets, The Madeira, Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica Quintet and The Martian Denny Orchestra. Villagers will also be thrilled to see the return of The Intoxicators, who missed 2017 after 12 straight appearances. Other performers include The Exotics, Black Flamingos, Czarna Wolgastar, The Royal Pacifics, Skinny Jimmy Stingray, and The Hukilau’s one and only emcee during its previous 16 years, the ubiquitous King Kukulele. Look for more bands to be announced, along with special guest DJs. Bands will perform on all five days in various venues. [More details below]

* BARS: 12 Tiki pop-ups. Seven of last year’s 10 acclaimed bar teams are returning, joined by five new Tiki-themed pop-ups from around the world setting up shop all over Pier 66 at special events, tastings, and classes. Due to popular demand, a second afternoon pool party with complimentary cocktails has been added to the schedule. Back for more more rum and cocktails are bartenders from Dirty Dick (Paris), Flask & Cannon (Jacksonville), Hidden Harbor (Pittsburgh), Nu Lounge Bar (Italy), Three Dots and a Dash (Chicago), Pagan Idol (San Francisco), and S.O.S. Tiki Bar (Atlanta). Coming on board for 2018 are Death Or Glory (Delray Beach), Foundation Bar (Milwaukee), Frankie’s Tiki Room (Las Vegas), Tonga Hut (Los Angeles), and Trailer Happiness (London). [More details below]

Rum ambassador Ian Burrell presents a symposium at The Hukilau 2017 (Atomic Grog photo). He'll be joined in 2018 by cocktail pioneer and influential musician/DJ Brother Cleve (Photo by Audrey Harrer)
Rum ambassador Ian Burrell presents a symposium at The Hukilau 2017 (Atomic Grog photo). He’ll be joined in 2018 by cocktail pioneer and influential musician/DJ Brother Cleve (Photo by Audrey Harrer).

* INDUSTRY VIPS: Cocktail influencer makes debut. Boston’s Brother Cleve will bring his vast knowledge of cocktails and music to The Hukilau for the first time. This prime mover of the craft cocktail scene in the 1990s and former member of the groundbreaking band Combustible Edison will present a symposium, make a special DJ appearance, and also have his own bar in the Tiki Tower Takeover event. In addition, rum ambassador Ian Burrell returns from London for a second straight year to host a symposium, two cocktail classes and a special rum tasting. [More details below]

* TIKI TOWER TAKEOVER: Signature cocktail party expands, returns for Round 4. Held on Thursday night in the hotel’s revolving Pier Top Lounge, the fourth edition of one of Tiki’s most exclusive events is likely to sell out just as fast as the previous three. Tickets are limited to passholders, so act now. The lineup will grow from four to five pop-ups (featuring six different bar teams), including returning participants Three Dots and a Dash and Daniele Dalla Pola of Nu Lounge Bar. Scotty Schuder of Dirty Dick also returns, teaming up with Pagan Idol for a special two-bar mash-up. The final two pop-ups will feature the craft cocktail stylings of Brother Cleve and the crew from the U.K.’s Trailer Happiness. [More details below]

* MERCHANDISE: Works of top Tiki artists on display. The official artists for The Hukilau 2018 are Joe Vitale and Donella Vitale, whose work can already been seen on the website and promo artwork. The couple is based in Orlando, where they both work for Disney in addition to being among the most recognizable artists of the Tiki revival. Fun fact: The Vitales are among a select few who have attended The Hukilau all 16 years, along with emcee King Kukulele and co-founder Tim “Swanky” Glazner. Villagers will get first shot at the event merchandise, including the 17th annual mug produced by Eekum Bookum. There will also be special items for some villagers, including a South Seas passholder pendant by Crazy Al Evans.

Bar teams from Pittsburgh's Hidden Harbor (left) and Atlanta's S.O.S. Tiki Bar will return for this year's expanded Rum Island Pool Party at The Hukilau 2018. (Atomic Grog photos)
Bar teams from Pittsburgh’s Hidden Harbor (left) and Atlanta’s S.O.S. Tiki Bar will return for this year’s expanded Rum Island Pool Party at The Hukilau 2018. (Atomic Grog photos)

* ENHANCEMENTS: Feedback from villagers. The Hukilau listened to its attendees and will implement quite a few changes: Extended hours and a second pool party on Saturday (in addition to Friday) including live music, more bars and bands (see above), a “Villager’s Lounge” tent to “meet and hang with old friends and new,” a party featuring all exotica music, and more food trucks.

* MORE SPECIAL EVENTS: Symposiums, Medusirena Marina swimshows. Symposiums, craft workshops, Okole Maluna cocktail classes, hula lessons, plus more new additions were announced in late January. These include three swimshows featuring Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid in her home at the nearby Wreck Bar in the B Ocean Resort, plus symposiums on Disney’s Trader Sam’s Tiki bar concept and the heyday of Tiki on television. Craft workshops will feature a trio of noted Tiki artists, while cocktail classes will include bartenders and experts from across the country.
UPDATE: The Hukilau 2018 symposiums to include Disney imagineer, Tiki on TV

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The Hukilau 2017: Updated schedule, drawing and silent auction announced with exclusive prizes

LIVE COVERAGE: Recap, news, photos and video UPDATED

The Hukilau: June 7-11, 2017, at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Buy tickets now.
* TheHukilau.com | Facebook: Page and Group | Twitter | Instagram
Previous story: Tiki Tower Takeover to feature Ian Burrell, international flair
Preview Sunday’s finale: The Atomic Grog to explore 60 years of Tiki cocktail history
The Tiki Times: Summer season heats up with The Hukilau, more events

Updated June 7, 2017

As The Hukilau’s organizers and villagers gear up for the 16th annual Tiki weekender in Fort Lauderdale on June 7-11, we have updated the schedule with a new late-night event and definitive band and DJ lineup. In addition, a special drawing and silent auction that will benefit two South Florida charities has just been announced.

The Hukilau 2017

The schedule now includes a late-night Blue Hawaii Party featuring DJ James Brown’s Sweat at the host Pier 66 hotel to give attendees another option on Thursday night. Also look for a showing of the classic Elvis movie of the same name near the pool on the hotel’s Royal Palm Lawn. The South Florida DJ, along with Tampa’s DJ Lounge Laura Taylor, have also been added to other events throughout the five days of festivities. Saturday’s final band lineup for The Mai-Kai is also posted.

We’ve also noted the sold-out events, which now include Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid’s Wednesday night swimshow, Will Anders’ craft symposium and the Three Dots and a Dash cocktail class on Saturday.
UPDATED Check the daily schedule below | Official website

The Hukilau has also launched a new initiative to give back to the Florida hospitality community and aid endangered coral reefs . It’s called “See Aloha,” according to organizers, “because we believe that in life you find what you’re looking for, and we choose to see the aloha that is around us everywhere.” The Hukilau is making an initial donation of $2,000 and asking villagers to help the cause and at the same time enter a drawing for some outstanding prizes.

After The Hukilau 2016, The Mai-Kai's Kern Mattei (left), Otto von Stroheim (Tiki Oasis) and artist Crazy Al Evans join Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid in an undersea adventure in Lauderdale By The Sea. (Photo by Roy Anderson)
After The Hukilau 2016, The Mai-Kai’s Kern Mattei (left), Otto von Stroheim (Tiki Oasis) and artist Crazy Al Evans join Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid in an undersea adventure in Lauderdale By The Sea. (Photo by Roy Anderson)

The prizes in the drawing include Mai-Kai gift certificates, bottles of sponsor rums, and passes to The Hukilau 2018. The grand prize is a collection of eight different Tiki mugs from some of The Hukilau’s guest pop-up bars, plus serial #1 of this year’s event mug from Tiki Tony and Eekum Bookum.

In addition, Crazy Al Evans is contributing an amazing collection of art pieces from his Tiki artist friends that will be up for bid at a silent auction. You can also bid to win a Mystery Drink presentation at The Mai-Kai from none other than “Mystery Guy” Crazy Al himself.

The beneficiaries are the education foundation of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association and the Miami Dade Reef Guard Association. The education foundation works with more than 200 Florida high schools to prepare students for a career in hospitality. Reef Guard’s mooring buoy plan has aided the installation and maintenance of 42 mooring buoys to date, allowing divers and fisherman to enjoy the reefs without risking damage to them with an anchor. Villagers at Pier 66 should check the daily schedule, on-site signage and official announcements for more on the drawing and silent auction.

Here’s another official glassware sneak preview fromm Tiki Tony:

Recent press coverage
MeduSirena Marina to get The Hukilau off to a swimming start! (Tiki Trail)

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Updated May 20, 2017:
New band added, sneak peek at official mug and glassware

A new band has been added to the entertainment lineup: The Hula Girls from Southern California. A veteran of The Hukilau 2013 and a fixture on the Tiki event circuit, this up-tempo “hulabilly” band mashes up hapa-haole, Tiki and surf music and filters it through a late 1950s and early ’60s rockabilly and rock ‘n roll soundscape. Unfortunately The Dead Rocks will not be able to make the trip from Brazil due to travel and visa issues. Look for the acclaimed instrumental surf trio at The Hukilau 2018.

The official event mug by Tiki Tony is based on the infamous shrunken skulls in The Mai-Kai’s Samoa dining room. It’s being produced by John Mulder and Eekum Bookum. Tony is also working on glassware and T-shirt designs.

Recent press coverage
The Hukilau returns to Fort Lauderdale’s Mai-Kai in June (Miami New Times)

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Updated April 28, 2017:
New website launches, more bands and cocktail classes, full schedule released

King Kukulele is back for a 16th year as The Hukilau's emcee. (Artwork by Tiki Tony)
King Kukulele is back for a 16th year as The Hukilau’s emcee. (Artwork by Tiki Tony)

The Hukilau’s all-new website went live last week with full details on the 16th annual gathering of the Tiki tribe in Fort Lauderdale. Highlights include more music and entertainment, more Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy classes, the full lineup of bands and pop-up bars participating in Friday night’s High Tide party, more bars added to the Rum Island Pool Party, a new symposium, and a detailed daily schedule.

Here’s a rundown on everything new that we gleaned from the totally redesigned and updated website. Keep an eye out for even more info to be announced in the coming weeks.

ENTERTAINMENT: Several new bands and performers were announced. Returning for another year are four South Florida favorites: Roots rockers Slip and the Spinouts and classic surf guitarist Skinny Jimmy Stingray. Area DJ James Brown’s Sweat will also be back to spin some funky tunes. Of course, King Kukulele also returns for the 16th straight year as on-stage host and emcee.

The Surfrajettes from Canada will be performing at the High Tide party on June 9.
The Surfrajettes from Canada will be performing at the High Tide party on June 9.

HIGH TIDE PARTY: The full lineup and details on the Friday night main event were officially annouced. The music will include a new addition, Slip and the Spinouts, along with an outstanding bill of previously announced bands: Stolen Idols (Tampa), The Mermers (Gainesville), Surfrajettes (Canada), and a new addition, The Hula Girls. Also performing will be burlesque queen Angie Pontani. And the icing on the cake is the announcement of eight guest pop-up bars, giving the party even more bang for your buck: Flask & Cannon (Jacksonville), Hidden Harbor (Pittsburgh), Pagan Idol (San Francisco), the Sip ‘n Dip Tiki Lounge (Great Falls, Mont.), Slowly Shirley (New York City), S.O.S. Tiki Bar (Atlanta), Three Dots and a Dash (Chicago), and UnderTow (Phoenix). All are also participating in the Tiki Tower Takeover and/or Rum Island Pool Party (see below). In addition to full access for multi-day passholders, the party is also now available for day guests for $99 (including one cocktail from each bar). There’s also a new Surf’s Up Friday/Saturday Combo pass ($129) that includes the party, plus Saturday’s Tiki Treasures Bazaar (including rum tastings) and main event at The Mai-Kai. The combo pass also includes passholder prices for symposiums and cocktail classes.

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