Archive for September, 2013

The unseen bar scene

September 25th, 2013

I love that my close friend and fellow Honolulu Pulse blogger Derin Derego mentioned his favorite under-the-radar spots last week. There must be something going on that had both of us thinking the same thing at the same precise time. It’s not like we ever really get tired of being at all the scene-y, be-seen scene spots, really.

For as much emphasis as we put on the “place to be” it’s a thousand times more cool to find your own spot. Derin called it “under the radar,” but I think it's more like “neighborhoody.” The bars where you can go by yourself, sit at the bar, talk story with the bartender and trust them to come up with a cocktail that might suit your mood. For people who have to be "switched on" for most of their day, heading to one of these hidden gems where the quality of service is truly valued can be the best way to unwind.

Restaurant & Bar Manager & Mixologist Dave Minch with some (not all) of his infused vodkas at Sway Restaurant & Bar (Courtesy of Christa Wittmier)

Dave Minch with some (not all) of his infused vodkas at Sway Restaurant & Bar (Courtesy Christa Wittmier)

Under normal circumstances, I would never put spots like this on blast — and you can bet there are a few others I will never reveal. It’s too precious to have such greatness without worrying about hundreds of others being keen on it as well. Try to grab a barstool at Bevy or Pint & Jigger after work any night they are open and you know exactly what I mean.

As impossible as Waikiki is for a townie like me, I was pleasantly surprised after plopping down at the bar at Sway to overhear someone asking the bartender how many infusions he was working on.

“Eight” he answered, pulling jar after jar of different colored liquids from a fridge under the bar.


The bartender was also bar manager Dave Minch, who watches over the spot tucked neatly away in chic boutique hotel Stay. The location is very neighborhoody for Waikiki, behind the Hyatt Regency Waikiki and next to Wang Chung’s. You pretty much need to work or live nearby to get there.

I happened to be in the area and was able to walk over. Watching condensation drip down the ice-cold bottles of Minch’s infused vodkas, I was very happy about this.

Minch said the pistachio macadamia nut was a popular choice, along with the very mixable orange-lime-pear. He had a pineapple-strawberry-habanero and a blackberry-vanilla bean, too. Most people order these straight up or on the rocks, but some of the vodkas offer endless mixing possibilities. If you decide to check him out, ask about his holiday infusions (including peppermint stick and pumpkin).

The lobby bar in the Hilton Waikiki Beach has music nightly and drinks that are less than $5 during Happy Hour (Courtesy Christa Wittmier)

The lobby bar at the Hilton Waikiki Beach offers live music nightly and drinks under $5 during happy hour. (Christa Wittmier)

Forget about finding parking if you visit Sway, but around the corner you can valet at the Hilton Waikiki Beach hotel on Kuhio Ave. (where you park to visit Mac 24/7). They have a fantastic bar in the lobby with live music nightly from 6 to 9 p.m., but also offer affordable drinks during their happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. $3 for a beer in Waikiki with live music sounds pretty good to me. The music comes from award winning musicians including Sunway, Johnny Helm and the Pushoverse.

Live music is also back at the old W Honolulu, now known as Lotus Honolulu. The Park Restaurant is the same space you might remember, but updated with a couch area by the windows for guests to come in and enjoy music with cocktails without having to order a full dinner.

Dinner here, by the way, is fantastic. Young and talented executive chef Michael Collantes has an incredibly fun menu of interesting flatbreads and eclectic vegetable dishes I loved, including a fried curry cauliflower and crack-like brussell sprouts.

Check their website for the music schedule, as they are planning out October now.

Oh, wow. I can’t believe it’s already October. October means HIFF among other things. It’s definitely time for busy on a whole new level.

I’m ready.


Christa Wittmier has chronicled Honolulu nightlife since 2004. She is senior marketing director at Young's Market Co. of Hawaii and executive director of music for POW! WOW! Hawaii, and also helps promote the popular "Bacardi Pool Party" on Oahu. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.

Fun, fearless fitness

September 18th, 2013

Daytime party? Almost. Runners in the Run or Dye celebrate at the finish with a blast of color. (Image Courtesy Titus Nakagawa)

Daytime party? Almost. Runners at “Run or Dye” celebrate at the finish with a blast of color. (Courtesy Titus Nakagawa)

When I was a kid my mom used to make that airplane sound when she was feeding me her invented nutrient-rich concoction called “banana-egg.” I couldn’t have been more than 3 or 4 but I still have a vivid memory of that because I hated that meal more than anything in my young world. The consistency of the two ingredients was so slimy. It looked terrible on the spoon. Yet she tried to make it as fun as possible with those airplane sounds and waving the spoon in exaggerated circles as it headed straight to my airplane-hangar/mouth.

Whatever you could do to be healthy, I guess.

I turned out ok, and banana is still my favorite flavor or everything – just no raw eggs please.

With exercise I thought I didn’t need a lot of special effects to make it fun – the idea of having an hour to myself with my music to burn calories was enough motivation to get on the elliptical trainer. Yet I still found myself immediately signing up for “Color Vibe” as soon as I saw they will be doing the event in Honolulu in November. I’m not sure what it was exactly that looked so fun about being covered in colored powder to run a 5K, but those smiling faces and the sheer uniqueness of it definitely hooked me. I was never a social fitness person before but this just looked too good to pass up. I figured November was enough time to figure out how to run a 5k and get some friends to join a team.

Flipping through my Instagram recently I saw local bartender, sales executive and fitness guru Titus Nakagawa participated in another “color run” (there’s actually a bunch of these!) called “Run or Dye,” so I was thrilled to be able to pump him for details on the race and if it was really something worthwhile or just another banana-egg-on-the-spoon, so to speak.

CHRISTA WITTMIER: How did you hear about the race?

Titus Nakagawa (center) with his team in the Run or Dye race at Aloha Stadium  (Image Courtesy of Titus Nakagawa)

Titus Nakagawa, center, with his team at “Run or Dye” at Aloha Stadium. (Courtesy Titus Nakagawa)

TITUS NAKAGAWA: My girlfriend is really into runs and doing these 5Ks. One of her coworkers is dialed into these fun race franchises, running (no pun intended) around the nation. Naturally I checked out the website and they had some amazing GoPro shot videos of the Sacramento race. After a couple of minutes I was sold. It looked fairly easy and being that I'm bouncing back from ACL surgery I was confident I could finish the race. We did “Run or Dye” with two other couples and my son, overall it was a damn good time.

CW: What was the most challenging part of the race?

TN: Honestly, there was nothing really challenging about it. The course snaked through the parking lot and ran past the concession stands in the stadium, then ended in the 50th State Fair portion of the parking lot. I brought my 8-year-old son for the race and he didn't have a problem wogging (walking/jog) the 5K.

CW: What were the most fun/memorable moments?

TN: There were five or six different color stations where volunteers had rows of 20-gallon drums filled with the cornstarch dye. Running through these was a pure joy. The racers were forced to go through each station and at least 15 volunteers were armed with ice scoops, squeeze bottles, trays, and 60-ounce cups, dousing racers with dye (in the face at times) as they passed.

Near the end of the race the final color stations drums were at, or near empty and the volunteers/runners were scooping the surplus powder off the ground. Some of the runners were lying on the ground making dye angels, impromptu games of tag were erupting between people off all ages, young, old, out of shape, people dressed as minions, it really didn't matter. These stations brought out all of the fun; think of a water balloon fight with a few thousand people and unlimited ammunition, now substitute balloons, for powder dye.

Fun Fitness for the whole family.  (Image Courtesy of Titus Nakagawa)

Fun fitness for the whole family. (Courtesy Titus Nakagawa)

Post-finish line there was a stage, in an almost concert type setting and they were giving out bags of dye. I'd say there were at least 1,000 people crowded around the stage as a hype man coordinated the mass of racers to throw their packets in the air at once, this was quite a spectacle.

CW: Were people in pretty good shape?

TN: I would say that most of the runners were in average shape. There was no specific demographic; children, college kids, up to people in their late 40's. Some were jogging, a few running at a quick pace, but most were taking their time.

Being that the race wasn't timed, I feel like most people didn't give a crap about how quickly they burned through it.

CW: Would you recommend these types of events to others?

TN: 100 percent, yes. The only downside was having to take multiple showers to get rid of dye-stained skin, but that was what made this run entertaining.

This actually made me pretty excited for November. Stand by for exciting photos of the sweaty color mess of our SUPERCREW team posted on Instagram by yours truly come Nov. 10. If anyone has any pointers for people new to running, feel free to share. This will be my first race ever.

Check out these events in Hawaii to bring more fun to your fitness:

» Warrior Dash

» Run, Rock & Wine

» Spartan Race

» Wellness Sightseeing Tour

Or, keep up with Running in the USA for a great listing of all the races coming up in Hawaii.


Christa Wittmier has chronicled Honolulu nightlife since 2004. She is senior marketing director at Young's Market Co. of Hawaii and executive director of music for POW! WOW! Hawaii, and also helps promote the popular "Bacardi Pool Party" on Oahu. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.

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Top 10 ways to succeed in (night)life

September 11th, 2013

It seems like there are more lists than ever these days.

185What happened to us? Can we not sit and read a proper piece of journalism without it being numbered or full of bullet points? Has the current decade chopped up our information so much that we find ourselves losing focus after scanning photo captions and the bold print?

A friend of mine recently was recently dubbed a “social climber,” which prompted quite a bit of discussion within my crew.

While the term definitely has a negative connotation, I told her she should see it as a compliment. Why wouldn't you want to know everyone who is making a difference and have access to them to make things happen? To me, that sounds like a good networker. Of course, your intentions must be pure.

Either way, I figure now is the best time to share my personal findings on Honolulu scenesters and share my advice for those interested. There is definitely more to getting ahead than just figuring out who the “IT” people are and following them.

Here you go:

1. Go Out — Every Night

If you really want to be all up in the scene, it’s not that hard. Just go out. Every night. Mondays at Lulu’s Waikiki; Tuesdays at Tsunami’s on S. King St.; Wednesdays at Manifest in Chinatown, then Safehouse at The Republik; Thursdays at V-Lounge on Kona St., then Addiction in Waikiki; and weekends at M Nightclub at Waterfront Plaza, Ginza Nightclub on Kona St. and The Study at the Modern Honolulu.

You can do it. It’s consistency that’s key to really start meeting new people.

2. Be Early

Visiting bars during off hours is when you can really get to know the staff and management. This is what's important if you’re really trying to be part of the scene. These people are the ones who will take care of you when you need it.

If you’re only going to NextDoor on First Friday or Addiction at 2 a.m. on a Saturday, you’re just another face in the crowd. Sit down at the bar early in the evening on an off night and listen for a while. Then engage.

3. Tip Well

Just when you think you’re getting somewhere and bartenders are starting to learn your name, it turns out you still can’t get a gig or make any true connections.

Guess what? Industry people talk. We all know money is tight these days, but a large part of being all up in the scene takes some investment. Don’t be one of those people who are blacklisted without even knowing it because you don’t take care of your bartenders and servers. And you should always tip for drinks or bottles that are comped by others.

4. Remember Names

This is by far the hardest one. I try to get someone’s name again once we’ve had a conversation. Trying to remember a name during the first five seconds of meeting someone for the first time never works. It’s usually better to get their full name, too.

People probably think I’m a huge, narcissistic dork because I always introduce myself by my full name, but it’s really just so they are comfortable telling me their full name in return. It really helps me with remembering — and Facebook lurking later, duh.

Physically saying their name out loud back to them also helps. And it's okay to ask someone, “what was your name again?” after your initial meeting, because they most likely have forgotten your name as well.

5. Shop Local

Sure, a weaker economy and lower salaries make Ross and Nordstrom Rack appealing, but paying a visit to some of the local shops or boutiques is when you will really start to become part of the scene. Supporting local retailers is a huge way to represent not only locally, but when you travel outside Hawaii.

And like the bars and clubs, the more you visit these establishments, the tighter connections you will make.

6. Stay Positive

It might be hard not to gravitate toward gossip-mongers, since they’re so damn entertaining. Just remember, however, if they're habitually talking about everyone else — you are definitely included in their conversations when your back is turned.

Keep your immediate surroundings as positive as possible with people who are working hard. If you can’t find them, follow them. It’s ok to mute your friends if they complain too much on Twitter. There is absolutely something good in every person and situation, even if it’s just a lesson to learn.

7. Don't Try Too Hard

Figure out what you want to accomplish and work towards that. Set real goals. Be genuine. Model your vision after those that are successful, but don’t mimic them. Make it your own. Look at Pinterest to soothe your brain and find out what you really do love.

Once you figure out your true self and find your own voice, the rest falls beautifully into place.

8. Focus On the Big Picture

Remember that it’s not just about you. It’s about the scene. Nightlife in Honolulu is nothing without the people who are all up in it.

Never try to bring someone else down. Offer up help whenever you can. Don’t always expect things in return. Be cognizant of how you treat others.

9. Just Do It

You know what happens when you don’t do something? Someone else will. It might not be as good as you can do it, but at least they are doing the legwork to make it happen.

Do you want to stand by and let that happen? Does our scene deserve the mediocre? Absolutely not.

Make that website. Plan that event. Write that business plan. Get the right people involved. You can do it.

10. Celebrate Diversity

Just because you don’t like something doesn't mean it’s crap. If you can’t keep an open mind to all genres, social circles and methods, you have no business trying to be all up in the scene. That is what makes it amazing. Everyone has a place to go.

This post was written mostly tongue-in-cheek, but I have been thinking a lot about the future. Bar and club openings and closings are one thing, but it’s a constant influx of new promoters and new faces out and about that changes the entire dynamic.

We need to keep the magic intact. I know we can do it.


Christa Wittmier has chronicled Honolulu nightlife since 2004. She is senior marketing director at Young's Market Co. of Hawaii and executive director of music for POW! WOW! Hawaii, and also helps promote the popular "Bacardi Pool Party" on Oahu. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.

Managing risk and taking chances

September 4th, 2013

Everyone has their own style of dealing with crisis management. I think our initial reaction is to freak out, but with enough self-discipline, experience and maturity, we can all learn how to handle stress and even turn it into a good thing. I constantly battle this initial reaction myself — both at work and in my social life.

If there’s one thing we can always count on in event production, it’s that things will always go wrong. You learn to expect it and try to diffuse situations as quickly and calmly as possible. No matter how much you plan and work on details, there is usually always something you miss. It’s life.

Ateeya Manzoor provides a fresh set of eyes to companies in trouble.(Courtesy Vincent Ricafort)

Ateeya Manzoor provides a fresh set of eyes to companies in trouble.(Courtesy Vincent Ricafort)

Outside of work, it’s usually other people who cause stress, whether it’s someone else trying to bring you down or driving too slow — or even worse, trying to pick a fight. Since it’s their problem and not yours, the best and most efficient way to side-step these types of situations is to ignore them.

It’s not easy, but once you can concentrate on what you are doing and doing it the best you can, that’s when everything else works itself out.

In the business world, companies have the option of hiring a specialist to help before it’s too late. I happened to meet a regular at Addiction Nightclub, Ateeya Manzoor, after the most recent “Hawaii Five-0” wrap party. Some of the cast and crew wanted to keep things going after the official party ended, but our last-minute decision meant the nightclub only had a small nook available for VIP seating.

That was fine with us, so we stuffed our crew into the space and danced the night away. After a while, however, Manzoor noticed what happened and sent club staff over to invite us to her table, where she and a few friends had a much larger area. She was happy to share not only her table, but a second bottle of Dom was on its way — and it was a magnum. We couldn't think of a better way to celebrate and it turned into one of those for-the-books, most special nights ever.

Bottle service with Ateeya Manzoor at Addiction Nightclub earlier this year. (Courtesy Christa Wittmier)

Bottle service with Ateeya Manzoor at Addiction Nightclub earlier this year. (Courtesy Christa Wittmier)

I kept bumping into Manzoor while out and about, as a lot of her favorite haunts are also my own. I learned she is a very experienced risk management professional who has made it her job to provide a fresh perspective to business owners hoping to achieve greater success.

It’s a concept many are familiar with, and I wonder if smaller businesses – our local bars and nightclubs included – could benefit from her services.

“I do an assessment of where the company is at, identify liabilities, reorganize assets, review competitive conditions and find ways to restructure and reorganize,” she explained recently over wine and pupu at Safehouse inside The Republik. “I’ve done and seen it all … worked with large resorts, night clubs, restaurants, technology companies, chemical plants, law firms, magazines. In most cases I am hired to fix things that are broken.”

Interested in learning more? Manzoor's company, Mayfair, will host a job fair from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10, and Wednesday, Sept. 11, at R/D, 691 Auahi St.

WHILE WE were put in the unfortunate position of recently saying goodbye to two long-time establishments, Zanzabar Nightclub in Waikiki and Indigo Restaurant and Bar in Chinatown, the yang to that ying was the grand opening of Bevy in Kaka'ako and the reopening of NextDoor in Chinatown.

The "good old days" at NextDoor with photographer Dan Weaver in 2005. (Courtesy Christa Wittmier)

The "good old days" at NextDoor with photographer Dan Weaver in 2005. (Courtesy Christa Wittmier)

The most exciting thing about NextDoor's revival is that new owner Daniel Gray and his partners Kanoa Bristol, Mark Robinson, Marty Simjian and Kenneth Gray have left the club pretty much as-is. None of the art was painted over; the large projection screen, stage and bar area are all intact. They only improved what was needed: the bathrooms, air conditioning and sound system.

An official re-opening party on Saturday, Aug. 31, brought back so many memories of amazing nights that happened in that space. The indie films, legendary underground hip-hop shows, kooky 80’s nights and the packed indie shows that featured amazing local bands all made a huge impact on Chinatown. The new owners still have a lot of work to do, however, as it will definitely take some time to regain their former following, but they are determined to make it happen.

Friday, Sept. 13, will bring the first of many underground hip-hop shows I loved so much back to Nextdoor, as local artist Melissa Wong has been able to leverage her personal relationship with the Living Legends to bring out both Bicasso and Alien Art Gang, plus Opio of Souls of Mischief and the Hieroglyphics. This is one of those shows that might have otherwise flown under the radar, a la Peanut Butter Wolf or Flying Lotus, a few years ago.

Alien Art Gang is based out of Oakland, Calif., and is a side project for Bicasso. While acts like Odd Future and Kendrick Lamar hog the spotlight, this lesser-known (but just as talented) lyricist and producer trio have a legendary reputation for a high energy live show.

Local acts Angry Locals and DJ Technique will open; tickets are available for purchase online.


Christa Wittmier has chronicled Honolulu nightlife since 2004. She is senior marketing director at Young's Market Co. of Hawaii and executive director of music for POW! WOW! Hawaii, and also helps promote the popular "Bacardi Pool Party" on Oahu. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.

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