Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, November 29, 2002

Busy Mai Tai Bar packed with fun

By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Staff Writer

Allison Hu (left) and Kristen Kawachi enjoy inexpensive, but tasty drinks. Excellent service and good bands help make Mai Tai a popular place to be. Fortunately, the crowd is a mellow bunch.

Photos by Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

Mai Tai Bar Friday nights are its busiest, and most crowded.

So crowded, in fact, that it took about five minutes for us to make it from the entrance of the corralled open-air bar to our own minuscule piece of General Growth Properties real estate near the stage. Seats, you ask? We probably should've tried to secure those about two hours earlier. Uncomfortably crowded? At times, yes.

What ultimately saved our night at Mai Tai Bar (and probably brought in most of the gathered), were the free cover, great live entertainment, inexpensive drinks and commendable service.

Considering the space available, Mai Tai Bar's patrons turned out to be a generally mellow bunch out to have a good time with friends at the end of a long workweek, or maybe, just maybe, hook up. Believe me, there was quite a bit of the latter going on.

Mai Tai Bar wisely keeps a changing lineup of bands working its Friday-night shift. When we dropped by, Backyard Pa'ina was in the middle of a set of mostly familiar crowd-pleasing hits.

Friday nights at the Mai Tai Bar mean wall-to-wall people — but without the walls.

Amanda Choo from New York watches other patrons at the nightspot, which is on the third floor of Ala Moana Center.

From left, Ann Bento, Desiree Joy Goodin, Dana Michelle Sato and Tanya Silver were among those enjoying a recent night out at the Mai Tai Bar.

A dozen people fronting the stage bravely tried to create their own tiny dance floor. Space seemed tight enough for dancers to crush coal into diamonds with their posteriors, but Backyard's sweet island rhythm arrangements of Bruce Springsteen's "Fire" and The Police's "Every Breath You Take" were hard to pass up. "Every Breath," in particular, was a genuinely inventive reworking of the early-'80s stalker classic. Matched with impressive tandem 'ukulele and acoustic guitar work, the song kept a laid-back and very danceable beat.Service was surprisingly fast, considering how crowded the place was. After watching our server navigate the 20 feet from the bar to us with a full tray of drinks raised high above her head — barely missing the elbows of three oblivious guys along the way who were high-fiving — we simply had to give her a bigger tip.

Our drinks were punchy, super-sized and inexpensive. Dawn's mai tai — ordered "'cause it's the damn Mai Tai Bar" — was, she said, "the best I've ever had ... really fruity yet strong." My bartender's iced tea was loaded enough to make me seek fresh air and elbow room outside the fence.

A couple dozen people also seeking shelter from the Mai Tai crowd (sans drinks, of course) sat on benches or hung out between California Pizza Kitchen and Bubba Gump's, talking story or listening to the band. We hung out on the railing overlooking the parking lot with others before heading back to take in nicely done Backyard renderings of Kalapana's "The Hurt" and 311's "Amber."

Mai Tai Bar was as wall-to-wall with bodies when we left at 11:30 p.m. as it was when we arrived.

• • •

What: Mai Tai Bar Friday Nights

Where: Mai Tai Bar, Ala Moana Center, third floor, 947-2900

When: Open until 1 a.m. Fridays; live entertainment 9:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m.

Cover: None

Younger than 21 OK?: No

Age of crowd: Early-20s to mid-30s

Dress code: None

Attire we saw: Casual and dressy. On men: polo shirts, dress shirts, solid tees, jeans, dress slacks. On women: stretch tops, tank tops, camisoles, cocktail dresses, jeans, dress pants

Our arrival/departure: 9:30 p.m./11:30 p.m.

What we drank: Bartender's iced tea, mai tai ($9.50 total)

Peak crowd while there: So full we couldn't estimate. If Mai Tai Bar had walls, think "wall-to-wall" people

Queue?: No

Sample music: "Could You Be Loved," "Mustang Sally," "Guava Jelly," "Silhouettes" performed live that night by Backyard Pa'ina

Dancing?: Yes, but be prepared to make your own space

Tip: Arrive very early for tables. We recommend 7:30 p.m.

Overheard line of the night: She: "You're kind of cute ... how old are you?" He: "22 ... how about you?" She: "37."