July 28th, 2012
It's the home stretch for The Republik, Hawaii's newest concert venue and lounge, which opens its doors to the general public for the first time on July 30.
Originally scheduled to open last summer, the space formerly known as the O Lounge at 1349 Kapiolani Blvd. is finally in the last stages of construction. A visit last week turned up a number of people hard at work — including managing partners Matty Hazelgrove and Chip Jewitt and general manager Robert Ramsey.
"It's gonna look like a concert hall," said Hazelgrove as we sidestepped construction materials and made our way to the area where The Republik's stage would soon occupy. "We'll have all the nuts and bolts done, but it's going to be a rush to the finish. We want our construction team to finish all the major things first."
That includes a 600-square foot performance platform that will elevate artists three and a half feet off the ground, plus two 12-foot high walls of speakers on either side. Also planned is an elevated VIP area just off the stage, with two more modular seating areas on order that will provide even more options for premium seating during concerts. The Republik will also feature a pair of "either 70 or 80-inch" LED screens, more than a half-dozen lighting projectors and three HD video cameras (worth nearly $30,000 by themselves).
"Neil Diamond's (concert) rider requires the cameras we bought," Hazelgrove said. "If they're good enough for Neil Diamond, they're going into The Republik."
Other upgrades already completed include extensive repairs and renovations to the building's electrical, plumbing, air conditioning and fire suppression systems and raising the ceiling in the music hall by more than five feet. Hazelgrove also pointed out a back corner of the room that will soon lead to a brand new fire escape, bringing the total number of exits at The Republik to six.
While some who frequented the O Lounge, which closed in 2009, might still recognize the general layout of the room, Hazelgrove was confident concert fans would be impressed by changes to the overall look and feel. The Republik's emphasis will be on live performances, with enough room to accommodate audiences similar in size to those that would attend concerts at Pipeline Cafe before it closed in 2011 and was replaced by a gym.
"A capacity of 1,200 to 1,500 people is the ideal," he said. "We want people to be comfortable coming to see a show, but I think even 1,000 people in here will be almost empty looking."
In order to accommodate smaller crowds on nights when concerts aren't scheduled and provide a number of different configuration options for private events, a second room called The Safehouse will be open for more traditional, nightclub-style parties. Knocking down a few walls and adding room separators now allows for customer access to The Republik's ticket office and restrooms while also creating a separate entrance to the makai side of the building.
"We're a big place, and big nightclub events don't really exist in this market any more," said Hazelgrove. "The Republik will be open for concerts as needed, but at the moment we're not interested in doing weekly events. Once a month might be more appropriate.
"Because of that, we decided to brand the lounge separately as The Safehouse. Per square foot, this will be one of the most luxe spots in town. The Republik was designed to be more industrial, while the Safehouse has a more polished look."
Following next week's Bloc Party concert, The Republik will host The Crystal Method on Aug. 11, Death Cab for Cutie on Aug. 22, Gym Class Heroes on Aug. 24 and Theory of a Deadman on Sept. 21. Days/hours of operation for The Safehouse have yet to be determined. Visit the new venue's website and follow them on Twitter for updates.
Jason Genegabus is Entertainment Editor/Online at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and has covered the local nightlife, music, bar and entertainment scenes since 2001. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.