Can Downtown Arlington compete with Bishop Arts, Magnolia? A tiki bar owner thinks so

(Star-Telegram, November 19, 2018)  This city’s once-sleepy downtown probably doesn’t conjure up images of a tropical paradise.

But J.P. Hunter and his three partners thought it was perfect place locate 4 Kahunas Tiki Lounge.

It’s the only full-time tiki bar in the DFW area and Hunter felt Arlington made the most sense for serving craft cocktails like a Blue Hawaiian or a Mai Tai.

“Unlike Fort Worth and Dallas, I feel like Downtown Arlington is kind of a train just leaving the station,” Hunter said. “I wanted to be on it when it left.”

Now boasting 25 restaurants along with five bars and breweries, Downtown Arlington still isn’t as bustling as the Bishop Arts District in Dallas or Magnolia on the Near Southside in Fort Worth but some of the business owners hope it develops in a similar fashion.

“To be honest, I hope it gets more of a Bishop Arts or a Magnolia feel with a little more groove to it,” said Greg Gardner, owner of the Grease Monkey Burger Shop and Social House.

In the seven years since Grease Monkey opened, Gardner has seen foot traffic steadily increase.

He is about to open a new restaurant, Cartel Taco Bar next door to 4 Kahunas, and he hopes it will become another hangout with its own patio across the parking lot from Legal Draft Beer Company.

If all goes as planned, Cartel Taco Bar should open by mid-December, Gardner said.

Earlier this year, The Tipsy Oak also opened, bringing more crowds to the area north of the railroad tracks in downtown Arlington..

“The patio is key,” Gardner said. “You need to control temperature-wise so it can be used year-round. We’ll face Legal Draft so there will be cool synergy to it.”

It isn’t just bars and restaurants, Downtown Arlington now boasts four co-working spaces and has more downtown residences under construction.

This week, the Arlington City Council approved a downtown master plan that Mayor Jeff Williams said will provide a “road map.” for where downtown goes next.

Among the recommendations are creating a downtown with “a distinct identity” and a “diversity of housing types.” Both a grocery store and a farmer’s market have been identified as needs.

Downtown already has housing such as such as 101 Center and 404 Border. Another, Park Place, broke ground this year.

It also got the high-tech George W. Hawkes Downtown Library, which opened in June, bringing more foot traffic to the area...

One big obstacle — the railroad tracks — remains a hindrance to linking both sides of Downtown Arlington.

For beer drinkers who want to sample multiple breweries, the tracks pose a challenge. Patrons must hop in the car and drive a few blocks to cross the railroad tracks — or walk across the tracks, which is illegal and considered dangerous.

“We’re on opposite sides of the tracks yet we can see each other,” said Wade Wadlington, the majority owner of Division Brewing.

Earlier this month Arlington voters passed Proposition A, which includes $7 million for downtown pedestrian crossing to address the issue. How long it takes to make that crossing a reality remains to be seen.

But Hunter, who grew up in Arlington, is bullish on the prospects for his tiki bar and Downtown Arlington...

Read the rest of the story by Bill Hanna in the Star Telegram, published originally on November 19, 2018. Photo by Max Faulkner.