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Commercial Former Honolulu Restaurant, Alexandria, VA. Ever love a bar so much that you buy almost everything inside, and then rebuild it in your home?

commercial tiki bar

kanaloa

Well-known member
The Honolulu was a beloved institution in Alexandria, VA, that opened in 1978 and closed in 2004 after the state took the land for the Beltway expansion. The owners were wonderful, the atmosphere the best in several hundred miles, the food was pretty good, and the drinks were strong. For me, it was the place that changed my mind about "poly pop" stuff. It was over the top, ridiculous, incredibly friendly, and very escapist. I still get bummed out whenever I drive past the spot where it used to stand, which is now an overgrown ugly spot of land sandwiched between off/on-ramps.

Some photos and a write-up here: https://critiki.com/location/honolulu-restaurant-alexandria-4/

In advance of their closing, the owners put everything up for sale and local tikiphiles excitedly bid on items. I managed to win a couple of small items that hung over the booth where my wife and I would regularly sit, and bid on several larger items with no luck. Then the news spread through the area that someone had bought almost everything. Later, rumors swirled that the mystery buyer was rebuilding the entire bar. Which was later confirmed by a couple of photos posted to the now-defunct local tiki forum, and later by photos from the Honolulu's owners themselves at their website: http://time2tiki.com/scrapbook.htm

Even people we knew who were "big" in the local tiki scene had no idea who rebuilt the bar or even where it was. The only thing we ever heard was that the "Honolulu II" was someplace really close to the original.. And so the mystery remained unanswered for decades.

Then, bored one day I stumbled across an article from 2019:
https://patch.com/virginia/kingstowne/rose-hill-wow-house-historic-find-tiki-barn
archived article: https://archive.is/oOOY0

Damn. And there it is. I had actually known about this property when it was preparing to hit the market, but the only listing I ever saw simply mentioned in passing that the property included a custom tiki bar. This description didn't get me interested enough to go to the open house.

Now the horrifying mystery and question is: did the new owners know what they had in their carriage house? And did they keep it? Or is everything sitting in the local landfill?
 
What an amazing thing to have in a home! I would love to know how the new owners are enjoying the "barn" :sneaky:

Just think, most people will drive by never knowing that a hidden treasure is in their neighborhood. (I'd love to be the guy that lives next door)
 
Just think, most people will drive by never knowing that a hidden treasure is in their neighborhood. (I'd love to be the guy that lives next door)

The bad selling point about that estate is that it abuts a large youth baseball complex which gets noisy throughout baseball season and will soon have giant floodlights at night. But the location also means that I spent two years attending my son's baseball games about 600 feet due west of the Honolulu II and never knew it. You never know what magic awaits just beyond the treeline.
 
I knew the couple who bought most of the old Honolulu and created the Honolulu II in their barn. It was amazing. An unbelievably faithful replica of the original. For many years after the Honolulu closed, they held an annual party for friends and old regulars of the bar. When they finally sold the house, they even gave the new owners my contact info, suggesting to them that if they ever did decide to get rid of the tiki room, I would have the connections to the local Tiki community to assist them.

I never did hear from the new owners. I’d like to hope that means that they and their friends continue to enjoy what the previous owners so carefully preserved.
 
I hope that's a good sign.

I get a little paranoid when it comes to tiki decor around here. There was one house in my neighborhood that had an impressive and large backyard tiki bar, one of those several thousand dollar custom kits like this https://www.bamboocreasian.com/tiki_bar_hut_custom_build.html but with carved tikis as the posts and tiki carved stools. Fast forward about 10 years and I see the property was coming to market and they were holding an estate sale. I went, expecting the bar and decorations to be part of the sale, but nothing was there except the old concrete pad. Asked the person running the sale about the tiki bar. She knew nothing. So I asked one of the next door neighbors who I vaguely knew from kid activities. They relayed that house's owners moved away a few years earlier, and destroyed the tiki bar because their prospective rental tenant objected to having a bar in the yard and the owners thought the bar was a negative for securing other renters.

WTF?

Per the neighbor, thousands of dollars of tiki and tropical stuff from the yard and the interior sat in a big haulaway dumpster for about a week.
 
Hello Kanaloa! Just saw your question from the Blast for the Past thread and thought I would respond here. Wow, I remember the DC/MD/VA tiki user group! They and TikiCentral introduced me to the Honolulu in Alexandria. At that time I'd drive by the Honolulu daily and never even noticed it! Thankfully because of our local tiki ohana I was able to enjoy it a number of times during its last couple of years in existence. We lost a real old-school tiki treasure when they closed those many years ago.

To answer your question-I've scrubbed through my archives and while I remember conversations around reverse-engineering the David Chan Mai Tai mix, I, unfortunately, did not save a copy. I did however find my last bottle of Dave and Anna's mix and also came across an old article for the Tiki Times newsletter by fellow TC'er Ikitnrev. I copied it below:
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Located off Telegraph Road just a few hundred feet south of the Beltway and I-95 interstate, the Honolulu is easy to miss. It sits off the corner of a busy intersection and is visually overshadowed by the 7-11 immediately next door. Once one parks in the limited parking space and walks in the front doors though, one will be immersed in the best Polynesian decorated restaurant in the D.C. area.

The lights are low, two deep blue colored landscape scenes are located on opposite walls, and indirect lighting is provided partly through giant translucent seashells. The setting is rather intimate - several times I have stopped in for a Mai-Tai and found myself the only customer in the restaurant. This is the type of small, family owned and operated businesses I like to frequent, the type where the owners will simply close down the restaurant for several weeks whenever they choose to take their family vacations.

The Honolulu Restaurant opened in 1977, but the original owner was forced to sell it only ten months later. The restaurant's saving knight was a man named David Chan, who bought the restaurant with his wife Ann in the summer of 1978. Returning to the D.C. area after two years of operating a restaurant in Saskatchewan, Canada, Mr. Chan decided the warmer D.C. climate was more appealing and has since kept the restaurant running for 21 years.
Except for a remodeled bar, the restaurant appears much as it did 21 years ago. Mr. Chan has significantly improved the bar area from its previous closed-in closeted state to the more accessible wide-open look, which enables one to watch from your table as David and Ann mix their top notch tropical drinks, including the house favorite Mai Tai. It is obvious that Mr. Chan has an artistic touch. He not only is an expert at mixing drinks, but also drew the pictures of the drinks contained in the full drink menu.

Mr. Chan has extensive drink mixing experience, having been a bartender at the now closed Washington D.C. Trader Vic’s restaurant from 1970 through 1976. This was the era of the Watergate controversies, and the tropical décor of Trader Vic’s proved to be an irresistible location of escapism for then President Nixon. David Chan did meet and shake hands with President Nixon at Trader Vics, and remembers how Nixon would usually visit either in the daytime or on a weekend so he could enjoy his favorite drink - the Navy Grog. Mr. Chan has personally served President Ford, his vice-president Nelson Rockefeller, and most likely quite a few other senators, representatives, and other movers and shakers of our nation's capital.
 

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Well, it happened. The home was on the market earlier this year and sold in January.

The listing is still up at: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/4010-Franconia-Rd-Alexandria-VA-22310/51920593_zpid/

The former historic horse stable with lush, fully-fenced backyard, transformed to provide a generous workshop, home gym, movie nights and private retreats in the upstairs home theater with full bar, pool table and the ideal entertainment space.

The Honolulu (or Honolulu II) is gone.

From this:

https://patch.com/img/cdn20/users/2...3acl-m44xd-w1020_h770_q80-1551394834-9492.jpg

To this:

https://photos.zillowstatic.com/fp/...a3391d-uncropped_scaled_within_1536_1152.webp

This further cements my opinion that Northern Virginia is a #@$@#%ing hellhole.
 
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