As Vancouver's Shameful Tiki gets ready to celebrate its 10th anniversary, owner Rod Moore is looking for the right buyer
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After a decade of running one of North America’s most successful Polynesian-themed bars, Rod Moore is selling Vancouver’s Shameful Tiki. In an interview with the Straight, he said it’s a decision that wasn’t easy to make.
“Honestly I have put so many things on my plate and I’ve become so scatter-brained that I’ve just kind of had enough,” Moore said. “My daily notepad is where I’m constantly adding things like ‘I forgot to answer that email”, and, ‘Shit, I forgot to pay that bill.’ It’s all day, every day, and I don’t want to exist like that. So I’m going to reboot, neutralize everything, and get to that point where I wake up one morning going, ‘Holy fuck—the only thing I have to do today is mow the lawn. I don’t have to call anyone or pay anything, and I leave town for six months it doesn’t matter.’”
To get to that point, Moore is planning to sell his stake in the Shameful Tiki’s Toronto location to his partner back east. But it’s the decision to move on from the Vancouver Shameful Tiki on Main Street that was hardest. The plans are to sell the bar, completely intact, to the new owner. The deal will include the recipes for the meticulously crafted tropical cocktails—think classics like the Zombie, Fogcutter, and Cobra's Fang—that have made the bar a destination for tiki aficionados from across the globe.
Moore is looking to keep the Shameful Tiki website, from which he’ll sell mugs and other paraphernalia.
If his decision is a hard one, it’s because of the work he’s put into making the Main Street spot a success. Reservations usually require days, if not weeks, in advance to get a table, and those who are lucky enough to get in sometimes have a two-hour slot in which to imbibe.
Moore came up with the idea for the bar in March of 2013 just as the tiki revival was starting to take root in North America. He built much of the room by hand, including carving Polynesian-style totems and sourcing and installing Southern Pacific-themed wallpaper, lights, and assorted paraphernalia.
For the first year business was slow to where he worried he’d have to close the Shameful Tiki down.
“There was a point where I was thinking “Man, if this doesn’t pick up...,’ because I’m barely treading water here,” he remembers. “But then it hit a tipping point where all of a sudden it got a little bit busier. So I thought ‘The word is getting out and people are talking—talking about having a great time because the drinks are so good.’ Then, all of a sudden, everyone was talking about it, and it just got full. And it’s never not been full since.”
That’s brought increased demands on Moore’s time. Last Christmas he reached a breaking point. After covering a shift at the Modern Bartender (which he also owns) in Chinatown, he got a call telling him he was needed at the Tiki because the back door wouldn’t close.
“It was like ‘After I close Modern Bartender at 6 I’m going to have to go home, get my tools, go to the Tiki room and see if I can figure out what’s wrong with the door in minus-seven weather. For the first time ever I had to stop myself from going ‘No. I don’t care. Just leave the door open.’ That’s when I realized ‘I might be past this.’”
That said, Moore says the Shameful Tiki is important enough to him—and to Vancouver—that he’ll only sell it to the right person. He notes that, as soon as it went on the market, he got a call telling him a buyer was ready to pay the asking price. But there was a red flag.
“A guy showed up with an offer, and all he wanted was a turn-key operation that showed some profit,” Moore relates. “That made me nervous, because you need some passion for this. My broker said ‘Just so you know—three years when you drive by here, it will be gone. He’s not in the industry, and he’ll probably start talking to people who will want to come in and adjust costs and change things. The staff will decide that they don’t like him and start leaving. And before you know it, it will be gone if you’re okay with that.’”
Moore, who’s looking to spend his upcoming downtime doing things like making music and carving tikis, decided he was anything but okay with that scenario.
“I was like ‘Let’s take him off the plate,’” he says. “I want to be able to continue to go there for my own selfish reasons—so I can enjoy it, and not have to bring my tool bag. The only downside is that I’ll have to pay my bill at the end of the night.”