Jason Genegabus

The Living Room’s relaxed
vibe is welcome respite

A little more than a year ago, I stopped in at Fisherman's Wharf and lamented that "a watering hole with potential shouldn't wallow in mediocrity."

The Living Room

Location: 1009 Ala Moana Boulevard (above Fisherman's Wharf)

Hours: 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. Wednesdays through Sundays

Call: 538-3808

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Sure, the restaurant's cocktail lounge was pretty run down. But I saw it as a diamond in the rough -- centrally located, with lots of parking and enough space indoors to throw a banging party.

As it turned out, I was on to something with this joint. Two months after my review appeared in the Star-Bulletin, The Living Room opened its doors for the first time. Last weekend, it celebrated one year of parties on the waterfront at Kewalo Basin.

INSTEAD OF trying to make over the cocktail lounge, The Living Room opted to take over the entire second floor of Fisherman's Wharf. While tourists can still enjoy dinner downstairs, head up the staircase after 10 p.m. and you'll find a full-blown nightclub five days a week.

Although you can't see much at night, the view of Kewalo Basin outside the row of windows along the Diamond Head side of the room helps give this place a much more open feel. It's not much bigger than the second floor of the Wave Waikiki, yet the windows keep you from feeling claustrophobic.

The rest of The Living Room's layout is pretty straightforward -- DJ booth at the makai end, bar at the mauka end, with booths and couches in between for people to kick back. When it gets crowded, the area near the bar tends to fill up first before spilling back toward the dance floor and DJ booth.

And unlike other bars in town where numerous neon signs keep visibility high, it's really dark here. Red-tinted lamps are set up around the room, and there are tea lights on some of the low tables near the dance floor. But your eyes will need some time to adjust when you first walk in, and I couldn't help but draw a comparison between this place and the lighting at Femme Nu. It's about the same.

Suky Sandoval, left, and Jorge Lindo get their groove on at the Living Room, upstairs at Fisherman's Wharf.

ONE OF the most impressive qualities of The Living Room has to be the diversity it offers. No two nights are exactly the same, and marketing/music director Ramyt Islam does a good job of keeping things fresh.

Fridays, for example, belong to fans of underground hip-hop. The Direct Descendants, a local MC/DJ crew, have held things down with "The Next Level" since August. "Speakeasy Saturdays" belong to the house heads, while jazz fans will want to check out DeShannon Higa's "Groove Improv Artists" on Thursdays. Mainstream hip-hop also gets its due with the recently launched "Soul Steady" party on Wednesday nights.

I'M ALSO a fan of the relaxed dress code that's in effect here.

I saw just about everything when I stopped by last weekend, from guys rocking T-shirts and jeans to girls who looked ready to head to the Ocean Club or the W Honolulu. There's something satisfying about getting dressed to go out and not having to worry about wearing a baseball cap or some other item of clothing that a random security guard will deem inappropriate.

With one year on the books, I'm happy to see The Living Room settle into its niche as a haven for jaded club kids. The relaxed atmosphere and variety of quality parties make this spot a necessary fixture on the local scene.

How much for a Bud Light?
For some reason, drink prices fluctuate at the Living Room depending on what night you visit. I've paid anywhere between $3 and $5 for a beer here.

Get things to do?
A couple of Megatouch game machines are located near the bar, but the main attraction here is the music.

What about the grinds?
The kitchen at Fisherman's Wharf closes before the Living Room opens at 10 p.m., which means there's no food available. Get a bite to eat somewhere else before coming here.

And the help?
Most of the bartenders are veterans from high-volume clubs like Pipeline and Reign (now known as Zen), so they're used to dealing with big crowds. There are also a couple of cocktail servers on duty, depending on the night.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.
Barfly appears every Friday in Star-Bulletin Weekend. E-mail Jason Genegabus at jason@starbulletin.com with suggestions of neighborhood bars to visit.

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