Freestyle: Cocktails, culture coming to Kakaako
BY ELIZABETH KIESZKOWSKI / firstname.lastname@example.org
In the middle of all the big plans for Kakaako — tall towers, Blaisdell Center redevelopment, an amusement park — two new temporary attractions are on their way to offer the kinds of basic pleasures that every community needs.
I’m talking about cold beverages, music, conversation and friendly meetups; you know, the building blocks of civilization.
One’s a bar; one’s a gathering place. Both of these projects are on land owned by Kamehameha Schools, in a district that’s being dubbed Our Kakaako. And what they signal is that as building and redevelopment plans roll out, the Kamehameha Schools trust continues to support creative use of its properties.
LET’S TALK first about the bar, which is being planned and managed by respected bartender Christian Self. Last Saturday, July 6, Self answered some questions about the place, which he’s named Bevy. (Love that!)
“It’s all about having a drink with friends,” he said.
As delivered by Self, though, we’re not talking about just any old drink. Self’s a cocktail expert who won a $10,000 prize for his deconstructed “Mai Thai” at the Don the Beachcomber Mai Tai Festival in 2010, worked with the Las Vegas-based bar consultancy BarMagic, and was part of an opening team for the former EDITION Hotel in Waikiki and EDITION in Istanbul. Self is currently bar manager for thirtyninehotel in Chinatown, an arts space and dance club for which he completely revamped the bar menu, and he’ll continue to have a relationship with that establishment.
Though he always seems laid back, Self admits to being a perfectionist. And bottom line, his drinks are amazing — based on fresh ingredients and decent liquor. While Self doesn’t hype himself or throw around a lot of flash, he has consistent, high standards. You’ll never get a drink made with substandard mixers or cheap swill from him.
With backing from Honolulu physician Phil Manzanera and the participation of DJ Timo Lee, who’ll help market the bar, Bevy is shaping up as an welcoming spot to have a drink, a chat, and get some food, as Bevy will have a kitchen.
“We’re making it a nice place — a better place that says what we are,” Self said. “The feel is going to be very stripped down, very bare, retro-industrial … with ambient music, soft light, good food with local ingredients, good drinks and a good experience.”
It’s not going to be a nightclub or dance destination, though you can expect to hear Timo (and most likely other DJs) in the mix at times. Self said the seating will be designed to encourage people to have “face time” — making new friends or having a good talk with old friends.
And as for the drinks menu — expect some surprises.
“I’ve been keeping some drinks up my sleeve for the longest time, drinks that I’m proud of, that say a little bit about me,” Self said. On some levels, they may be more “simple” than those on the menu at thirtyninehotel, but they will reflect a sense of play.
“It’s better to make drinks that people actually want,” Self said. You might consider that his motto.
Kamehameha Schools proposes to redevelop the block bounded by Ala Moana Boulevard, Auahi, Keawe and Coral streets, and this includes the Bevy site. There are no guarantees that Bevy will stay in that block for more than a year. If the enterprise catches on with locals, though, as neighbors Whole Ox and Hank’s Hot Dogs have, Bevy could be invited to stay.
“We thought it was worth the risk,” Self said. “We’re here for the long-term, and we want to be relocated within the Salt project.”
MEANWHILE, over on Cooke Street, Kamehameha Schools is working with the vibrant Tokyo architects of Atelier Bow Wow to create a temporary, multi-purpose space inside a warehouse in the strip of properties including This It bagel shop.
Yoshi Tsukamoto from Atelier Bow Wow unveiled his project at a June 28 pau hana gathering at book store/coffeehouse/workspace R/D on Auahi Street — a block down the road from Bevy.
The architect said he was inspired by details of Honolulu’s Liljestrand House, which sits on Tantalus, and wanted the space to have an outdoor feel, though it will be inside. It will be flexible for use as a cafe, for live music and performance, to show projected movies or as a workspace.
The architecture firm has created projects in Tokyo and other international sites, and the partners are known for their fascination with buildings that occupy small or leftover spaces or make use of unusual, challenging settings, and in designing public spaces that encourage active, diverse use.
Tsukamoto said he pictured the space being used for meetings — “symposia” — to learn more about Kakaako and to discuss its future. And he also said the space, with its human scale, could serve as a kind of counterpoint to some of the oversized towers and projects being planned in the area.
As the block now occupied by R/D and Bevy is redeveloped to become Salt, the Cooke Street space that Tsukamoto called “Kakaako Agora” (agora is the Greek word for “gathering place”), can be a haven for continued, creative use in Kakaako. It’s an encouraging thought.
Elizabeth Kieszkowski is editor of TGIF, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s weekly arts and entertainment section. Reach her via email at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter.