Two years after the Shameful Tiki bar turned Main Street into the best thing this side of the South Pacific, owner Rod Moore is on his way to establishing a permanent beachhead in Toronto.
The bar's Vancouver location has done booming business with classic Polynesian drinks since opening in the summer of 2013. Over the past couple of years, Moore has thought about expanding beyond Lotusland. That became more than a dream when he opened his second Shameful Tiki in Toronto last November.
“I’d thought about it a ways ago because Toronto is so big, there are lots of people there, and there’s nothing like it there,” Moore tells the Straight in a phone interview. “Then it faded out of my mind until we were at an event in New York, a tiki weekend. There was someone from Toronto, and he was like ‘Oh, man—you gotta do it. Toronto’s pining for it.’ So we went ahead and found a place.”
Toronto’s Shameful Tiki opened November 19 on Queen Street West, with minority partner Alana Nogueda taking care of the day-to-day operations. As with the Vancouver location, Moore strapped on his tool belt and built the spot from the ground up, with Polynesian-style lights and decorative puffer fish brought in from California, and bamboo sourced in Markham, Ontario of all places.
“Here you can buy split bamboo--there I had to buy poles,” Moore says. “I had to figure out how to split them myself with an axe and a hammer. I felt very authentic splitting away. It was two and a half months of building that I’m amazed we got through,” Moore says. “There’s a lot of stuff to look at--lots of bamboo and matting on the wall. It looks pretty cool.”
Four-hundred-pound logs were dropped off and then hand-carved on-site into tiki totems. Thatched roofs, vintage posters, and classic tiki mugs meanwhile throwback to the time when Polynesian bars were hotter in North America than Elvis in Blue Hawaii.
The decor isn’t the only place that both Shameful Tikis show a fetishistic attention to detail.
As with the Vancouver location, the main attraction at the Shameful Tiki Toronto is of course authentic, carefully crafted drinks inspired by giants like Trader Vic and Don the Beachcomber. Zombies, Mai Tais, and Scorpions are among the 40 classic Polynesian cocktails on offer.
Toronto, Moore says, was even quicker to embrace the Shameful Tiki than Vancouver. After setting a sales goal for the first month, he was happy to find that figure doubled, with January 2016 up 20 percent over that.
“I can’t complain about how well it’s doing, because it’s doing great,” he reports. “Toronto didn’t have one [a tiki bar] and they are stoked to have one. It’s a city of two-and-a-half million people as opposed to 650,000 people. They have a bigger rockabilly scene, a bigger pinup scene, and a bigger burlesque and go-go scene. And they have an actual tiki scene, which Vancouver doesn’t. So there are these people built in who were like ‘Hey, we’re stoked that you’re doing this.’ ”