6.13.17 / New York / New York

Tiki Tabu Brings Classic Tiki Culture To A LES Rooftop

The tropics through the lens of a boutique hotel

Lena Nicholson (4)
[Credit: Lena Nicholson]

For the past few years Tiki Tabu has been the place to be in the Lower East Side come summertime. With a stunning view of the city and stylish interiors, the SIXTY LES ‘rooftop’ bar added a youthful vibrancy to the neighborhood hotel scene. But this year the venue is getting a refresh, led by their new Director of Programming Zac Nichols. “This is a homage to true tiki culture, like Trader Vic’s,” Nichols says, in reference to the original tiki influencer back in the 1930s. The result is a more refined approach to every aspect of the bar, making Tiki Tabu more appealing than ever before.

Lena Nicholson (7)
[Credit: Lena Nicholson]

“This year the concept is to feature only authentic nautical elements,” Nichols says, and immediately guests will notice the new design, more polished and sleek than past iterations. Though the layout will be familiar to anyone who has visited, everything from the new patterned floors to the furniture have all been redesigned under the direction of Nichols. “Prior to this it was more psychedelic, it was brighter, it was a modern on take on Tiki culture. This is a classic take.” Another focus is bringing a natural feel to the space – nautical touches create a beach-y feel (the fishnets hanging on the ceiling are the most appealing new addition) while a new selection of plants and flowers adds to the tropical nature of a tiki club.

Kaitlyn Mikayla (2)
[Credit: Kaitlyn Mikayla]

Speaking of botany, there is a strong concentration on floral and fruit flavors in the new cocktail program, which is a now a centerpiece of the programming. “We have a weekly guest bartender program. Every Tuesday we’re going to feature a cocktail only available on that Tuesday with that bartender that night.” The focus on cocktail programming is key—most people associate the bar with tropical drinks served in wooden tiki tumblers. There’s a collaboration with nightlife bar specialists GLASSROX with founder John Longo serving as the first guest bartender, and he’ll showcase the new tropical and floral flavors. There will be further collaborations with the two outdoor bars set to open in the summer, and Nichols is firm in his commitment to the cocktail offerings. “We’re going to program that like it’s music.”

Tiki Tabu has always drawn in a mixed crowd, some of whom want to lounge around but some who really come for the party. But Nichols re-asserts the vibe this year. “This a purist bar, not a nightclub. There’s going to be dancing, because we have fun DJs, but no promoters. [The crowd] is self curating.” The music will be tightly overlooked, with a rotation of only 3 DJs booked for the season. But the reasoning is only to create a better and more consistent environment for the guests. “I want to make sure you have the same experience here every time, and that it’s a quality experience.”

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[Zac Nichols]

“The only problem with doing a pop-up every year is that it’s like opening a bar every single year,” Nichols quips as he looks around the newly finished space. But this year Tiki Tabu does feel different, and it comes with the kind of sophisticated changes that the Lower East Side desperately needs. In striving for a more authentic experience, Nichols and his team have provided a better one. Even if you show up just for the view, you’ll get that sense of effervescence the brought the original tiki bars to life.

Tiki Tabu opens on June 15th, at 190 Allen Street