Martini bar, cafe set to open in arts district


POSTED: Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The revival of a stretch of Bethel Street in the Chinatown arts district is well on its way, with the opening of Bambu 2.0 in the spot vacated by Red Elephant.

The new cafe and martini bar is set to open next month, next door to the Kim Taylor Reece Gallery at the Arts at Marks Garage. The lease for the 4,000-square-foot space — empty for more than a year — was signed on Friday, according to business partners Dave Stewart and Al Sieverts.

Bambu 2.0 is the sequel to Bambu's Bar, the reincarnation of the former Row Bar at Restaurant Row on Ala Moana Boulevard.

“;We've taken what we've already developed, and this is the offshoot,”; Stewart said.

The venue is expected to draw foot traffic up Bethel Street toward Beretania, where there will be outdoor seating and, of course, Wi-Fi.

It is Stewart's third venture in the arts district, along with Bar 35 and Brasserie Du Vin, which are both more profitable than last year, he said.

Stewart and Sieverts struck up a deal with Andrew Friedlander, who owns the Arts at Marks building, calling it a “;win-win”; for both parties.

During the day, the place will serve the cafe crowd, mostly students from Hawaii Pacific University, with coffees, teas and pastries. When evening hits, the place becomes a lounge with cocktails, drinks and a bar menu.

Like Bambu's Bar, Bambu 2.0 will serve martinis all day long for $3.50.

The space has been transformed into a signature Stewart destination, with an African art piece occupying an entire wall (if it looks familiar, it once hung in the Opium Den at Indigo Eurasian, another venture founded by Stewart).

A full island bar is under construction in the center, while the back office was knocked down, opening up the space. Dark bamboo will, of course, be the signature decor. Art space also will be available on Bambu 2.0's walls.

Next door, more space is under construction for an unveiling into a live music venue for bands, DJs and dancing in about six months. The stage will be kept, while the sound studio will be knocked down.

Bambu 2.0 will, of course, participate in the First Friday arts walk, and is seeking a license to stay open until 2 a.m.

Sandy Pohl, owner of the Louis Pohl Gallery, says Bambu 2.0 will be a welcome addition to two other nightspots — the SoHo Mixed Media Bar and Mercury — which draw traffic.

“;The energy on First Fridays is really huge in that area,”; Pohl said.

Since the recession hit, the Chinatown arts district has had its share of vacancies.

Besides the departure of Red Elephant last July, a space formerly occupied by Keiki Photography just down Bethel Street sits empty. The former McClain's Auctions House at 1 S. King St. remains vacant after the last auction in April.

Stewart scrapped his plans for La Rhumba, a Caribbean-style bar originally planned on Hotel Street, but decided Bambu 2.0 was an opportunity worth pursuing.

Waikiki may be next, the partners said.