Archive for the ‘Latest News’ Category

Aloha means goodbye

By
October 17th, 2016



COURTESY JASON GENEGABUSFrom left: Sarah Honda, Maleko McDonnell, Lacy Matsumoto, Molly Watanabe, the author and Rick Smoot hanging out in Chinatown, circa 2007.

COURTESY JASON GENEGABUS

From left: Sarah Honda, Maleko McDonnell, Lacy Matsumoto, Molly Watanabe, the author and Rick Smoot hanging out in Chinatown, circa 2007.

There’s no easy way to write this post, so I’ll just get right to the point.

This is the last time for the foreseeable future that “In the Mix” will be updated on this site. Honolulu Star-Advertiser management decided earlier this month to discontinue publication of all staff blogs, with a few exceptions.

Unfortunately, I was not one of those exceptions. I’ll continue to write for the print edition as a general assignment features reporter, and you can still read my “Barfly” column on Fridays in TGIF.

“In the Mix” got its start 15 years ago in the pages of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin as a three-dot column in the style of longtime entertainment columnists Dave Donnelly and Ben Wood. In 2010, the column transitioned into an online blog after the merger of the Star-Bulletin with the Honolulu Advertiser.

COURTESY JASON GENEGABUSThe author with Iron Chef Michael Symon in 2011.

COURTESY JASON GENEGABUS

The author with Iron Chef Michael Symon in 2011.

I’ve been lucky to cover lots of fun things over the years. Thank you to everyone who has supported my work in print and online — especially those who continue to spend the money to buy a paper and help keep us in business. All of us in the newsroom still need that support.

Want to keep in touch? I’m still reachable at work via email (jason@staradvertiser.com), and you can find me on Instagram (@anykinedakine) and Facebook (facebook.com/jason.genegabus) as well.

Aloha!

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Iolani Palace introduces 3D tour

By
April 7th, 2016



BRUCE ASATO / 2011Iolani Palace.

BRUCE ASATO / 2011

Iolani Palace.

While nothing will truly replace the chicken-skin feeling of standing inside Iolani Palace, visitors from around the world can now take a tour of the building without having to leave home.

The palace’s new 3D virtual tour allows those interested in the historic royal residence to get a closer look at artifacts and see rooms not typically open to the public via desktop computers and mobile devices.

“We are always striving to enhance the visitor experience,” said The Friends of Iolani Palace executive director Kippen de Alba Chu in a news release. “The virtual tour is not a replacement for experiencing the palace in person, (but) it gives guests an opportunity to ... take a glimpse into what they can expect on an upcoming trip.”

BRUCE ASATO / 2011The Music Room, also known as the Gold Room and the King's Private Drawing Room, is now accessible online via the palace's new 3D virtual tour.

BRUCE ASATO / 2011

The Music Room, also known as the Gold Room and the King's Private Drawing Room, is now accessible online via the palace's new 3D virtual tour.

Iolani Palace enlisted the services of LNG3D Hawaii, a local subsidiary of Canda-based LNG Studios, to create both a 3D tour and a “doll house model” of the structure using Matterport 3D scanning technology. Cameras were set up in more than 200 locations to map the palace interior.

The virtual tour was made possible by a $30,000 grant from the Robert Emens Black Fund at the Hawaii Community Foundation. Grant funds also paid for drone video footage of the palace from the air as well as interior architectural photos.

Iolani Palace, which was built in 1882 by King David Kalakaua and is the only royal residence in the United States, is open for real-life visits from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily (except Sunday). Visit www.iolanipalace.org for more information.
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Jason Genegabus has covered the local entertainment, nightlife, music and bar scenes since 2001. Contact him via email at jason@staradvertiser.com.

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Fat Tire rolls into Hawaii

By
February 11th, 2016



JASON GENEGABUS / JASON@STARADVERTISER.COMBottles from New Belgium Brewing Company line the shelves at Bar 35 during a preview tasting earlier this month.

JASON GENEGABUS / JASON@STARADVERTISER.COM

Bottles from New Belgium Brewing Company line the shelves at Bar 35 during a preview tasting earlier this month.

One of the most eagerly anticipated craft brew brands in the United States arrives in Hawaii this week as New Belgium Brewing rolls out a full complement of its beers — including its popular Fat Tire amber ale — in stores as well as local bars and restaurants.

“Craft beer has a lot of potential to grow and expand, especially here in Hawaii,” said New Belgium Brewing regional sales director Scotty Prawalsky during a preview tasting at Bar 35 on Feb. 2. “We feel our beer is going to resonate really well. We’re excited for people to try it and not have to bring it home in their luggage!”

New Belgium Brewing was officially launched in Fort Collins, CO in 1991 by a guy who started out by making beer in his basement. Jeff Lebesch and his wife, Kim Jordan, were the ones who came up with the original Fat Tire recipe, which led the charge to the brewery’s current offerings of more than three dozen different beers.

Yes, Beer Nerds, you can relax. Hawaii will get more than just Fat Tire. Along with the amber ale, we’ll see bottles and kegs of Ranger IPA, Rampant Imperial IPA, Citradelic tangerine IPA and Glutiny gluten-reduced golden ale. Sidetrip, a Belgian-style pale ale, will be available on draft at local bars and restaurants. Another seasonal release, Hoppy Blonde ale, is expected here in March.

Why the expansion to Hawaii now? It’s all about capacity, Prawalsky said. New Belgium has a new brewery built and ready to go in North Carolina, which will be capable of taking care of customers on the east coast that were previously serviced by the original Colorado brewery. Once it’s fully functional later this year, beer brewed in Fort Collins that was once destined for others will now make its way across the Pacific to Oahu, Maui, Kaui and Hawaii island.

A number of events are planned on Oahu to celebrate New Belgium’s arrival, starting Thursday at Bar 35. The Chinatown bar will host a free public event with entertainment by Discord & Rye to go with beer and pizza samples. All New Belgium beers will be priced at $4.50 (bottles) and $5 (draft) before 10 p.m.

On Feb. 17, BREW’d in Kaimuki will host a Tap Teaser featuring the two seasonal beers on draft as well as the full lineup of bottles available in Hawaii. The bar is located at 3441 Waialae Ave. in Kaimuki; call (808) 732-2337.

And reservations are now open for a New Belgium Brewing Beer Dinner hosted by Chef Ronnie Nasuti at Tiki’s Grill and Bar in Waikiki on March 21 at 6 p.m.

According to a menu posted online, the dinner will include:

» Amuse Bouche: Tarte Flambée Duck Confit with melted leeks and Gouda cheese, served with Citradelic cocktail

» First Course: Hibachi Hamachi Kama with spice sprout salad, served with Citradelic tangerine IPA

» Second Course: Pig Ear Frites with green papaya salad and lime fish sauce, served with Glutiny Golden Ale

» Third Course: C4 Oyster with crab/sausage stuffing and taegu, served with Ranger IPA

» Fourth Course: Quartet of stuffed chicken wing, Rampant beer soup, corned beef cheek and foie gras, served with Rampant Imperial IPA

» Fifth Course: Manini New Belgium waffle with char siu duck ice cream and brown butter coconut maple syrup, served with Fat Tire amber ale

Tickets for the five-course meal are $73.79 and available via Eventbrite.
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Jason Genegabus has covered the local entertainment, nightlife, music and bar scenes since 2001. Contact him via email at jason@staradvertiser.com.

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Blue Note adds local artists

By
February 11th, 2016



KAT WADE / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISERNew Orleans' Rebirth Brass Band performed at the new Blue Note Hawaii in January.

KAT WADE / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER

New Orleans' Rebirth Brass Band performed at the new Blue Note Hawaii in January.

As Blue Note Hawaii continues to settle into its new home at the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach, the jazz club with roots in New York City will feature an increasing number of Hawaii-based acts and turn to a familiar theme on Sundays.

DON TIKI

Featuring Starr Kalahiki

» When: 7 and 9:30 p.m. Feb. 16-18 (doors at 5 and 9 p.m.)

» Cost: $25, $35, $45

ANUHEA AND FRIENDS

Featuring Paula Fuga

» When: 7 and 9:30 p.m. Feb. 19-21 (doors at 5 and 9 p.m.)

» Cost: $25, $35, $45

THE ROUGH RIDERS

» When: 6:30 and 9 p.m. March 31 through April 2 (doors at 5 and 8:30 p.m.)

» Cost: $25, $35, $45

Following a pair of concerts by ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro at the beginning of January, it’s taken a little time for Blue Note management to find the right lineup of performers. When I spoke with owner Steve Bensusan before the venue’s soft opening in December, he said there were no immediate plans to feature local artists other than Shimabukuro.

“It’s all about forging alliances with the right people and getting their input to provide the right type of entertainment,” he said at the time. “We’re just now really getting into programming some local events, so you’ll see things pop up over the next few months.”

Three things popped up at the start of February, when it was announced that Don Tiki featuring Starr Kalahiki, Anuhea and The Rough Riders will all get multi-night runs over the next few weeks. Don Tiki will play at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Feb. 16 through Feb. 18, followed by Anuhea featuring Paula Fuga and “other special guests” at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Feb. 19 through Feb. 21.

The Rough Riders — Henry Kapono, John Cruz and Brother Noland — wrap up this round of local love with performances at 6:30 and 9 p.m. March 31 through April 2.

“It was very important to Outrigger that our local artists be part of the ongoing music lineup,” said Sean Dee, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Outrigger Enterprises Group, in a release announcing the shows. “It is exciting to see (Blue Note Hawaii) moving forward with providing opportunities for our Hawaii musicians to perform in this world-class showroom.”

A number of local musicians will be involved with Blue Note Hawaii’s Gospel Brunch, a weekly event that launches on Easter Sunday, March 27. Doors will open at 11 a.m. Sundays for brunch, followed by a 1 p.m. performance by the Blue Note Gospel Choir. The newly-formed band features lead vocalists Riya Urei Davis, Christina Souza and David Harris backed by music director Jeannette Trevias, producer Scott Baehrens and drummer Bonny B.

Also in the works are Friday and Saturday Late Night Jam Sessions that will feature “legends alongside the best local musicians Hawaii has to offer,” according to the club’s website. Jam Sessions will follow regularly scheduled performances at Blue Note Hawaii and typically won’t get started until 11:30 p.m. each night.

Blue Note Hawaii officially opened last month with special guest Kenny G. More than $3.5 million was spent renovating the former Society of Seven Showroom at the Outrigger Waikiki, turning the 9,000-square-foot space into a state-of-the-art performance venue.

Recently announced shows include:

» Maxi Priest, Feb. 25-27

» Kamasi Washington, March 14-16

» The Blind Boys of Alabama, March 22-23

» The Wailers, April 4-10

» Lee Ritenour, April 12-17

» Hiroshima, April 26-May 1

» Ravi Coltrane May 17-22

Unless otherwise noted, headliners typically play two sets each night at 6:30 and 9 p.m. A full menu will be available with chef Rodney Uyehara in charge of the kitchen. For a complete list of showtimes, ticket prices and additional information, call (808) 777-4890 or visit www.bluenotehawaii.com. A 15 percent discount on tickets is available to Hawaii residents and military with valid ID; validated parking is available at the Ohana Waikiki East, 150 Kaiulani Ave.

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Jason Genegabus has covered the local nightlife, music, bar and entertainment scenes since 2001. Contact him via email at jason@staradvertiser.com and follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Otto Cake turns to Kickstarter for fundraising help

By
February 4th, 2016



KRYSTLE MARCELLUS / 2013Punk rock baker Otto in his Kaimuki store in 2013.

PHOTOS BY KRYSTLE MARCELLUS / 2013

Punk rock baker Otto in his Kaimuki store in 2013.

Downtown Honolulu hasn’t been kind recently to punk rock baker Scott "Otto" McDonough, who celebrated 26 years of selling his cheesecake and baked goods under the Otto Cake brand in Honolulu last week.

After shuttering his original Kalihi storefront in 2004, a debilitating back injury kept him from reopening another retail location until 2009. He moved to Smith Street in Chinatown, but was forced to close that location in 2013 after a series of run-ins with drug dealers and drug users that caused him to fear for the safety of himself and his employees.

0202 otto 002Media coverage of Otto’s plight and his move from Smith Street to 12th Avenue in Kaimuki led to a surge in business, and less than two years later he was back in downtown Honolulu with a new space on the ground floor of the Davies Pacific Center. The expansion was meant to be the precursor to another expected boost in sales, since many of Otto’s customers continued to work and live in the area and were eager for him to reopen in the neighborhood.

But just as the busy holiday season was supposed to get underway, disaster struck his downtown operation once again. About a week before Thanksgiving, the sprinkler system in the building malfunctioned, causing thousands of dollars in water damage. A month-long closure led to a significant loss of revenue and continues to threaten Otto Cake’s overall viability as a business.

"It's the day I revolve around all year," Otto said of the business he generates on Thanksgiving. "I have to make double the money that month so I can pay the rent in January. But I couldn't take Christmas orders either.

"I knew on Thanksgiving, I was sitting there by myself in Kaimuki and I just knew it was going to be bad. How bad it was, was they sent me a bill for the entire time I was closed. They want interest on everything.

In order to help Otto catch up with his bills, friends established a Kickstarter fundraising campaign with his blessing to collect $7,000 for the business by 3 p.m. Feb. 15. Backers have so far pledged nearly $5,000 of the money requested in return for rewards like fresh-baked brownies, strawberry ginger lemonade, iced coffee and Otto Cake T-shirts. Those who pledge at least $100 will also have their names listed on a perpetual plaque that will be posted in the store; as of Tuesday night, rewards were still available for pledges of $200 or more.

Even if he hits his Kickstarter goal, however, Otto still isn't out of the woods. After making necessary repairs, missing his January rent payment and scrambling to figure out how to make this month's rent, he estimated he now needs between $17,000 to $20,000 to dig himself out of this hole. Yet he makes no excuses for his shortcomings, stating matter-of-factly that "I can't read well and don't know numbers very well, so I'm not the most well-educated person."

"I was homeless before I started my bakery," he continued. "I've already packed my house up and am ready to do it again. I was already anticpating that (the bakery) was gone. This (fundraiser) is now that last ditch miracle effort that might save it, but I thought it was gone.

"I wanted to last until the 26th anniversary last week, and then I was accepting of the fact that it was going to go. But now people know. My parents didn't know until a couple weeks ago. I didn't tell my band members. I told no one. I mean, it wasn't my customers' fault there was a flood."

Otto seemed almost overwhelmed when asked about the outpouring of support he's received since the news got out. He's appreciative of what's been done so far, but also realizes there's still a lot more help needed in order to save his business. Along with financial support, he mentioned needing legal and accounting advice to help address the issues at his downtown store.

Along with the Kickstarter campaign, Otto Cake supporters will have an opportunity to make donations during a fundraiser concert at Downbeat Lounge on Feb. 11. Let’s Save Otto Cake will feature performances by Otto’s band 86 List, The Bougies, T.V. Microwave and Even Odders. Doors open at 9 p.m.

For more information about Otto Cake or the fundraiser, call or text Otto direct at (808) 834-6886 or visit the fundraiser’s Facebook event page and Kickstarter campaign profile.
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Jason Genegabus has covered the local entertainment, nightlife, music and bar scenes since 2001. Contact him via email at jason@staradvertiser.com.

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More thoughts on UB40

By
January 29th, 2016



KAT WADE / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISERUB40 Featuring Ali Campbell, Astro and Mickey Virtue on stage at Blaisdell Arena on Thursday. The band returns for a second sold-out show tonight.

KAT WADE / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER

UB40 Featuring Ali Campbell, Astro and Mickey Virtue on stage at Blaisdell Arena on Thursday. The band returns for a second sold-out show tonight.

UB40 fans lucky enough to hold tickets for tonight’s sold-out Honolulu concert at Blaisdell Arena are definitely in for a treat, as UB40 Featuring Ali Campbell, Astro and Mickey Virtue delivered an entertaining two-hour set on Thursday and will undoubtedly do the same again this evening.

Here are a few more thoughts on the show that didn’t make it into my review, which can be found here.

IS THAT UNCLE BARRY?

If I were drinking something when UB40 Featuring Ali Campbell, Astro and Mickey Virtue first hit the stage, I would have done a spit-take worthy of viral video glory.

Even though I had my glasses on and was sitting just a few rows away from the stage, I truly had a hard time believing it wasn’t President Barack Obama on keys after faking out the world and extending his annual holiday vacation so he could give Virtue a break. And this was before the smoke with the funky smell started to waft above the crowd, so I knew a contact high was out of the question!

KAT WADE / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER

KAT WADE / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER

Whenever I found myself losing focus on some of the more obscure songs performed on Thursday, I fixed my gaze on the Uncle Barry lookalike and cracked up. Maybe I’m easily entertained, but I got a kick out of it the entire show.

SUPPORT LOCAL

Kudos to concert promoters Ray Jr. and Tantriq Entertainment for giving local bands a shot at opening for such a legendary band. In order to cut costs, promoters based on the continent often skip on hiring an opening act, opting for just the featured artist — or even worse, letting the artist handle the job and suffering through a family member who was suddenly appointed tour DJ for the trip.

Sure, UB40 Featuring Ali Campbell, Astro and Mickey Virtue and/or their management probably had to sign off on the bands, but Ray Jr. and Tantriq were smart in presenting local rising reggae stars The Vitals (pictured below) as an option for Thursday’s show. They represented the 50th State well and got the Blaisdell crowd more pumped than they would have been listening to a playlist off the audio engineer’s iPod plugged into the sound board.

KAT WADE / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER

KAT WADE / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER

Going tonight? Try to get there when things start at 8 p.m. so you can catch perennial local favorite Kapena opening things up.

PUT YOUR HANDS DOWN

It used to be a good thing when everyone at a show would have their hands up as the band played. Not anymore.

JASON GENEGABUS / JASON@STARADVERTISER.COM

JASON GENEGABUS / JASON@STARADVERTISER.COM

In 2016, most of those hands are holding a smartphone and blocking the view of people behind them — and more often than not, it’s for the entire performance. It’s getting harder and harder to enjoy a concert when you’re forced to constantly avoid glowing phone screens being waved around on all sides.

Sure, maybe I’m being a little hypocritical. When I cover a concert, I bring two iPhones with me to create content for social media, along with a separate point-and-shoot camera and other equipment. But I’m working! Whenever I spend my own money to see a band play, I might take a picture or two, but then I'll put my phone away and focus on what's happening in real life right in front of me.

What gets me is that people will pay good money for tickets to a show... and then spend the whole time experiencing it through a phone screen. If you’re going to do that, why not buy a concert Blu-Ray or DVD and stay home instead?

Just. Put. It. Down.

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Jason Genegabus has covered the local nightlife, music, bar and entertainment scenes since 2001. Contact him via email at jason@staradvertiser.com and follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Fluffy inks ABC pilot deal

By
January 15th, 2016



KAT WADE / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER Gabriel Iglesias, aka Fluffy, on stage at the Hawaii Theatre on Thursday.

KAT WADE / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER

Gabriel Iglesias, aka Fluffy, on stage at the Hawaii Theatre on Thursday.

As stand-up comedian Gabriel Iglesias neared the end of his 93-minute set at the historic Hawaii Theatre on Thursday, he allowed himself to slip out of Fluffy mode for a bit in order to share a few juicy bits of news with fans — as well as at least one Honolulu Star-Advertiser reporter in the room.

Nestled between a funny story about the increasing automation of bathrooms and two classic jokes involving a police encounter after picking up a box of fresh Krispy Kreme doughnuts and his adventures driving a souped-up Volkswagen Beetle, Iglesias let it slip that he has a deal to film a sitcom pilot for ABC based on his life when he’s not on tour.

“The Fluffy Shop” will be based on his real life, Iglesias said, because he didn’t feel comfortable playing the role of someone else on television. He wanted fans to see him as himself.

Iglesias also mentioned a number of animated projects he’s part of that are in various stages of development. “Norm of the North,” which opens today in theaters, pairs his voice with a polar bear. He’s also set to appear in an upcoming follow-up to 2014’s “The Nut Job,” and he’s signed to work on a remake of the classic Disney cartoon “Ferdinand the Bull.”

Despite performing in front of a nearly sold-out Hawaii Theatre crowd, this week’s show “wasn’t supposed to happen,” Iglesias said.

Thursday’s four opening comics — Martin Moreno, G Reilly, Alfred Robles and Rick Gutierrez — are all in town this week shooting scenes with Iglesias for the second season of his Fuse TV show, “Fluffy Breaks Even.” Expect to see Fluffy and friends eating at Koko Head Cafe and taking part in a mud run at Kualoa Ranch among other adventures when the season premiere episode airs in April.

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Jason Genegabus has covered the local nightlife, music, bar and entertainment scenes since 2001. Contact him via email at jason@staradvertiser.com and follow him on Twitter and Google+.

RELATED POST:

Comedian Gabriel Iglesias returns to Hawaii for last-minute laughs

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Cannabis Expo offers learning opportunities

By
January 15th, 2016



No matter your personal views on the consumption of marijuana in Hawaii, medical dispensaries are on the way to our shores more than 15 years after former Hawaii Governor Ben Cayetano passed Act 228.

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2016 HAWAII CANNABIS EXPO

» Where: Neal Blaisdell Exhibition Hall, 777 Ward Ave.

» When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Jan. 30 and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 31

» Cost: $10

» Info: www.hawaiicannabisexpo.com

Last year, the Hawaii State Legislature passed Senate Bill 321, which allows for the establishment of a legal distribution system of medical marijuana. A number of groups — with various controlling interests — have lined up for a shot at one of just three licenses available on Oahu.

The stakes are high, with these groups required to pay a $5,000 application fee along with a $75,000 license fee if selected. They also have to show proof of having $1 million cash readily available in a bank account, plus another $100,000 per dispensary they’re licensed to open.

But on the flip side, the number of medical marijuana patients in Hawaii could easily double once a safe, reliable supply of medicine is made available. Other types of businesses will be able to cash in on an industry that’s booming in other places where marijuana is legal.

With so many questions surrounding the issue, this month’s 2016 Hawaii Cannabis Expo should be a valuable experience for those at all levels on the medical marijuana spectrum.

“What we've done with The Hawaii Cannabis Expo is get some of the leading local and national experts together in one space so patients and potential patients can get their questioned answered,” event organizer Kyle Paredes said in a statement. “If you want to learn anything and everything about cannabis, from health benefits to home-growing and regulations, you can get it at this event.”

From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Jan. 30 and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 31, local residents will be able to learn more on subjects ranging from how to acquire a medical marijuana card from the state, the different ways of consuming medical marijuana and how to effectively grow the plant for personal consumption. Special guests expected to attend include well-known grower and author Ed Rosenthal; the Hydroponic Society of America’s Dan Lubkeman; Dani Green Fox, Miss High Times 2015; and Wendy Gibson, field organizer for the Drug Policy Forum and the Medical Cannabis Coalition of Hawaii.

“The challenge is that there are more questions than answers when it comes to how to become a medical cannabis patient in Hawaii and how to safely access cannabis as medicine,” said Gibson. “We welcome this opportunity to share.”

Along with seminars and presentations, paid classes and a trade show will be part of this year’s expo. A food court will also be open at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall with a variety of dining options available.

Admission to the two-day expo is $10 per day; those under 18 years old must be accompanied by a paying adult. Visit www.hawaiicannabisexpo.com for more information.

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Jason Genegabus has covered the local nightlife, music, bar and entertainment scenes since 2001. Contact him via email at jason@staradvertiser.com and follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Bar Leather Apron opens downtown

By
January 6th, 2016



PHOTOS BY KRYSTLE MARCELLUS / KMARCELLUS@STARADVERTISER.COMBar Leather Apron owner Justin Park presents a Clover Club cocktail accompanied by candied bitter orange peel. Cocktails at Bar Leather Apron will be served with a complimentary appetizer.

PHOTOS BY KRYSTLE MARCELLUS / KMARCELLUS@STARADVERTISER.COM

Bar Leather Apron owner Justin Park presents a Clover Club cocktail accompanied by candied bitter orange peel. Cocktails at Bar Leather Apron will be served with a complimentary appetizer.

It only took a few days for guests to steamroll this week’s soft opening of Bar Leather Apron at Topa Financial Center.

Owners Justin Park and Tom Park (no relation) put out a private invite on New Year’s Day via social media, inviting friends and family to make reservations at the new space that used to be Mezz 127. By Monday, the first day of the soft opening phase, Tom Park had to put out another message letting people know reservations were nearly full.

The overwhelming response only underscores how eagerly anticipated the new bar is among mixology fans.

“It’s the home stretch to the starting line,” said Justin Park. “Different people are going to see us for different things.”

Park, 34, was previously the bar manager at Manifest in Chinatown and has more than a decade of experience in the bar industry. He raised his profile tremendously after winning the title of World’s Best Mai Tai in 2012, and is widely considered the best bartender in the United States for 2014 after winning the United States Bartenders Guild’s Shake It Up competition and finishing fourth overall in the World Cocktail Championship.

0106 BLA 002

Tom Park essentially grew up at Topa, where his mother still runs a flower shop in the building after more than 25 years. He also owns luxury shoe retailer Leather Soul, which had a storefront in the same building before moving nearby to Merchant Street. After signing their lease over the summer, the two have enlisted the help of friends to get a lot of the remodeling work done themselves to turn the space into what they want for their intimate, service-oriented business model.

“We’ve both been very hands-on with the build out,” said Tom Park. “With my shoe store, I conceptualized with the architect, and then it was executed by the architect and the contractors. With this, we were involved in the process the whole way.”

Walk into the 1,054 square-foot space and you’ll find a beautiful 16-foot, J-shaped bartop fashioned from a slab of monkeypod by local woodworker Dae Son. It’s a worthy stage for Justin Park to showcase his skills, yet cozy enough for customers to get the one-on-one interaction expected from such a refined establishment. Customized glassware from Japan lines the shelves, with bottles of whiskey and other spirits on the bar that you’d have an extremely difficult time sourcing on your own.

Bar Leather Apron is also leading the way when it comes to ice in a local bar, with Justin Park promising that all his cocktails will be served with hand-carved ice. A preview visit to the bar last week turned up oversized blocks and spheres created to fill different shaped glasses, plus an expensive commercial freezer installed smack dab in the middle of the bar itself.

Justin Park explained the placement was out of necessity, so bartenders will always have ice within reach, but also as a marketing tool for customers used to watching bartenders pull “fancy” ice out of portable coolers that look like something you’d take to a picnic at the beach.

0106 BLA 003

“I want there to be new flavors people have never tried and pairings they’ve never tried, and make the classics really good, but I want the emphasis to be on the whole place and not just the drink program,” he said. “You could go to a really good bar and have a (terrible) drink. You probably wouldn’t go back there. Or you might go to a (terrible) bar, but this guy knew what ... he was doing and made great drinks. I want it to be like, ‘Man, we went to this really good bar, and we had a really good drink, and we’re going to go back to this really good bar.’

“My cocktail program is a bar program. My bar program is everything that goes on in the room.”

While the drink menu continues to undergo fine-tuning during the soft opening phase, Justin Park said he expects to offer “six to eight signature drinks and about 15 to 20 classic cocktails” once Bar Leather Apron opens to the general public on Monday. A variety of classic highball cocktails will also be served along with beer, wine and “some other fun stuff.”

To help introduce the new bar’s drink menu, he shared two cocktails that are confirmed to be on the menu. Pick up a copy of today’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser to check out the Bar Leather Apron Old Fashioned, a twist on the classic cocktail made with Knob Creek whiskey from a barrel hand-selected for Bar Leather Apron.

Justin Park prepares a Bar Leather Apron Old Fashioned.

Justin Park prepares a Bar Leather Apron Old Fashioned.

While the Old Fashioned is considered a more masculine drink — that hasn’t stopped more women from ordering them in recent years as the popularity of whiskey has grown, Justin Park added — the Clover Club falls on the other end of the spectrum. With gin as its base alcohol and a special raspberry syrup made using a sous vide machine, the drink is both delicate in appearance and full of flavor. See the recipe below.

Bar Leather Apron is located at the Topa Financial Center, 745 Fort Street, Suite 127-A, and will be open from 3 p.m. to midnight Mondays through Thursdays, 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays and 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturdays starting next week. Call (808) 524-0808 or visit www.barleatherapron.com.

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Jason Genegabus has covered the local nightlife, music, bar and entertainment scenes since 2001. Contact him via email at jason@staradvertiser.com and follow him on Twitter and Google+.

0106 BLA 004

CLOVER CLUB

By Justin Park, Bar Leather Apron

Ingredients:

» 2 ounces gin

» 1/4-ounce Lillet Blanc

»1/2-ounce sous vide raspberry syrup

» 1/2-ounce lemon juice

» 1 egg white

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice. Shake and strain into another mixing glass. Shake with no ice added and strain again into chilled cocktail glass.

Note: Park creates his sous vide raspberry syrup using sugar, water and raspberries in a sous vide machine. Substitute with raspberry-infused simple syrup.

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Posted in Bars & Clubs, Latest News, SA | Comments Off on Bar Leather Apron opens downtown

Foursquare taps RumFire as top Hawaii bar

By
December 30th, 2015



STAR-ADVERTISER / 2014New Year's Eve revelers at RumFire pose for a photo during last year's celebration.

STAR-ADVERTISER / 2014

New Year's Eve revelers at RumFire pose for a photo during last year's celebration.

It may not be as popular in Hawaii as Facebook or Instagram these days, but apparently lots of people still use social media app Foursquare to share their location with friends.

With 2016 just around the corner and people making plans for their New Year’s Eve celebrations on Thursday, Foursquare took a look back at the year that was by releasing a state-by-state list of the most popular bars in the U.S. among its users.

In Hawaii, the honor went to RumFire Waikiki, the beachfront restaurant and lounge that offers outdoor seating and live entertainment throughout the week. According to Foursquare, it’s the sixth highest ranked bar for cocktails in Honolulu and averages an 8.2 rating (out of 10) on the site.

RumFire will welcome the new year with a party that combines the restaurant with the hotel’s Helumoa and Infinity Edge pool areas to create a super-sized 21-and-over celebration that kicks off at 8:30 p.m. Night Circus will feature music by DJs Technique and Jem with special guest DJs Evil One and Mike D; Star 101.9’s Maleko and KHON’s Chanel Moke Puha will host.

Tickets for the party are $100 general admission, with $200 “Champagne Room” tickets available along with bottle service and other VIP packages. Visit www.rumfirewaikiki.com or www.honoluluboxoffice.com for more information and to buy tickets, or call (808) 271-1728.

And take note — RumFire Waikiki is an indoor-outdoor venue and the pool decks will not be completely covered, if at all. Night Circus will take place rain-or-shine on New Year’s Eve and no refunds will be given, so be sure to check the weather report first and dress accordingly!

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Jason Genegabus has covered the local nightlife, music, bar and entertainment scenes since 2001. Contact him via email at jason@staradvertiser.com and follow him on Twitter and Google+.

Posted in Food & Drink, Latest News | Comments Off on Foursquare taps RumFire as top Hawaii bar

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