If you’ve ever escaped to a tropical paradise, you understand “island time.” Chats become conversations, a cocktail become an occasion, and down time is the only time. You don’t “run” on island time. You stroll.
Ready for a little island time, right here in Arlington, Texas? We highly recommend 4 Kahunas Tiki Lounge, Downtown Arlington’s brand new destination in the popular Urban Union development. We sat down with Chris Powell, one of the actual kahunas, to learn about a true labor of love and friendship.
Downtown Arlington: Is there any particular significance to the number “four” … as in 4 Kahunas?
Chris Powell: There are four real-life kahunas (wise men, since we’re so humble): Kahunas JP, Scotty, Randy and me, CP. We’re all from and love Arlington. We’ve been friends for most of our lives! Visitors to our island getaway will learn more about the 4 Kahunas’ mythology, starting with all the little clues throughout the bar.
DA: How did you get the idea to open a bar with a tiki theme?
CP: I’ve been a fan of tiki bar culture the longest, having grown up on my Grandpa George’s stories of the Tonga Room in San Francisco. He inspired me to visit amazing tiki bars all over the U.S., Canada, England, and France.
This journey took us a couple of years with some fun twists and turns, but it all started with a trip to Las Vegas. I took everyone to two of my favorite tiki bars there: Frankie’s and the Golden Tiki. The group immediately fell in love with the tiki experience, from the welcoming bartenders to fun escapist décor to delicious, boozy (but balanced) beverages. When Kahunas JP and Scotty were looking to move back from Houston to Arlington, this seemed like a perfect fit for their next business venture, and they invited Randy and me to join them.
DA: Tell us a little more about the four real-life Kahunas.
CP: Each of us brings something different to “the island,” which is the reason it made so much sense to have all 4 Kahunas involved.
JP and Scotty have worked together for years, starting and managing various businesses. Most recently, they had a wholesale flooring business and worked with contractors every day, so at 4 Kahunas they didn’t mind getting their hands dirty with design and construction. They’ve also overseen vendor relationships and customer service, so they’re comfortable taking the lead in developing our cocktail menu. Lots of nights spent sweating over a hot cocktail shaker… Ha!
Randy is an Arlington-based attorney and has also organized international conventions with thousands of attendees. He brings a lot of the organization and structure that any business needs to get off to a strong start. You can’t fault his cocktail-testing skills, either!
I’ve managed retail and customer service in the pop culture (comic books/games/toys) world, including over 20 years in Arlington. My oldest friends and I grew up in the bars our parents owned here in Arlington, like The Cabaret and The Tanstaafl Pub, so I know how important the customer service experience is for any venture that wants to stand the test of time. I’ve had a blast working with the other Kahunas to develop the “look” of the bar, sourcing a lot of art and décor along the way.
DA: What’s exciting to you about 4 Kahuna’s location in Downtown Arlington?
CP: For years my office was on Abram St. I can actually see it from 4 Kahuna’s front door. Randy still has an office further west on Abram St. We’ve watched Downtown Arlington Management Corp., the Chamber, and the City work together to do amazing things through the years, and we can’t wait to be a part of it. We want people to say, “Let’s see a show at the Levitt tonight, enjoy dinner at The Tipsy Oak, then grab a drink at 4 Kahunas!”
DA: Tell me about the environment you envision for 4 Kahunas. What will locals come back (and back and back) for, and what will tourists love?
CP: We’re excited to bring something new, but also the right amount of old. In the past, both Dallas and Fort Worth were home to great, classic tiki bars like Trader Vic’s in Dallas and Ft. Worth’s short-lived Ren Clark’s Polynesian Village. Now Arlington is the BEST place to build the experience we envisioned.
When people come to our island, they’re instantly transported to another place and time. Surrounded by the gentle sounds of exotica and surf music, they can listen to a great story from talented bartenders or one of the kahunas visiting after an adventure, enjoy cocktails they’ve not seen elsewhere, and while away the evening free of the day’s concerns. When we call it an “island getaway,” we really mean it!
DA: What’s unique about your bar menu?
CP: Tiki bars have a rich cocktail tradition, and we are excited to carry it on. The menu features a wide variety of drinks that we’ve worked for a year to get just right. While the fun tiki mugs and glassware are part of the experience, our focus is on great drinks with beautiful garnishes that accentuate the scents and flavors that make people want to come back for more.
With fresh fruit juices being squeezed daily and mystery syrups and spices being brewed out of sight, people will find their favorite drink while always staying on the lookout for something new. We’re curating quite a list of rums, too, a spirit with a fantastic history that has gone unappreciated by a lot of folks for way too long.
Beer drinkers will enjoy our selection just for them, plus we hope to work with some of our Downtown Arlington neighbors to brew up something special. Shhh, it’s a secret!
DA: Would you like to give a shout out to anyone?
CP: We truly wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for the vision and support of Ryan Dodson, everyone else at Dodson Development, and DAMC. When the kahunas first met with Ryan to discuss locating in Urban Union, I brought photos from many of the tiki bars I’ve visited. Ryan listened to every word, studied the photos, and IMMEDIATELY got what we were going for. He saw how it would fit with his own vision for Urban Union and Downtown, and he worked tirelessly with us to make it happen. Two of the first pieces of art that we hung in 4 Kahunas are actually gifts from Ryan.
We’ve all had an immense amount of support from family and friends too, not to mention the tiki community. When I visit other bars, many have already heard about our venture and are excited to see it in person. In the Houston area, the great folks at Lei Low and Howie’s Tiki have been big supporters from Day One, and we’re looking at ways to work together to spread the aloha spirit all across the state.
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About Downtown Arlington
Designated by the State of Texas as the Arlington Cultural District, Downtown Arlington blends a unique mix of activities, sights, tastes and sounds that attract visitors and locals alike. Within its less than a two-mile radius, Downtown is home to a top tier public research university, prolific fine and performing artists and arts institutions, live entertainment, exciting NCAA and professional athletics, one-of-a-kind dining and retail, and a supportive business climate.