It’s an underground thang. The owner specifically told me not to blog about his bar. This after he had poured me some of the best cocktails I’ve ever had. This after my friend had snapped a pic of my outrageous Tiki bowling shirt with the hula-girl-grass-skirt-party on my back. How did he know I was a blogger? “What if I were to say something like ‘there’s a Tiki bar in Berlin, but I don’t say where it is?” The owner seemed to accept this proposal for the time being. Then I asked him to explain why it was so important that customers NEVER FIND HIS BAR. I’m always open to new ways of marketing in troubled economic times. I also respect the idea that some people just don’t want to work to make a living. Because, y’know, like, customers are like, so lame. They make you work and make drinks and stuff. But this was not the case with the Big Kahuna at the Secret Tiki Bar. He was pouring and shaking and measuring up a storm. Good Tiki drinks take time and effort to make.
I told him the secret was already out—at least a few clues. He asked me how and why. I needed another drink. Then he could ply me with his questions. The next drink was what my granny would call ‘a doozy’ if she drank. The mixmeister said it was a creation from LA in the golden era of Tiki bars, when said bar was surrounded by Tiki bars and said bar needed a drink to compete with them. A rum drink, to boot, and strong. He said the name at least 3 times but all I can remember is this: it was strong. It had lots of rum and a strong bite with a blackberry pucker. He makes all his drinks from memory. Why? Because he is a professional. The man runs a bar in a space you will never find if you walk by five times in a row. If you got the address from a very clever Tiki bar website, you would STILL walk by the place. It has no markings whatsoever on the outside of the building. If you pressed your face on the dirty glass of the abandoned storefront hiding the bar, you wouldn’t see much; maybe a shadow moving in the back amid shafts of dim lighting. You would probably think it was just a hoax or bad info.
“I just don’t want large groups coming in here,” the owner said, “I’m trying to cater to the locals and my regulars. I don’t need big groups of drunks coming here to fill the space.” Well, that was an understatement. Ten people could fill the space. A friend of mine had a home Tiki bar in the basement of his Prague flat. It was only a little bit smaller.
“What about the front space?” my drinking partner added, “You could easily add tables and chairs and….”
“I just don’t want to do it,” The Man proclaimed. Well, it was his bar. Why have menus when you have the whole shebang in your head? Why have customers banging on your door when you have 6 feverish locals who can pay you a few bucks a night? Why have the hassles of more customers? The Big Kahuna added that he welcomes die hard Tiki bar fans and locals rather than drunken college kids. (If any freaky Tiki people are reading this, I’ll be happy to give you the address of The Secret Tiki Bar. But you really have to be freaky about Tiki; I mean with a profile on Tiki Central Dot Com and Tiki mugs in your house).
The Secret Tiki Bar’s mojo is working and the camouflage is in full effect. Before we got there that night I nearly walked by the bar again. I had been there a few times before, once by myself, once with another friend, and this time with a different friend. We walked in the snow for a while and I nearly lost him in it. When we finally got there and pushed through the dark façade into the inner sanctum of the Berlin Tiki gods in the ultimate unrecognized underground Tiki bar, my friend said, “I’m impressed!”
And I guess that’s the point.
Tiki shirt photo by Niall O'Hara