Jason Genegabus

Hotel Street’s Bar 35 offers
a worldly beer menu

The pieces are slowly starting to come together on Hotel Street. It's been almost a year since thirtyninehotel opened its doors to Honolulu's sophisticated scenesters, while neighboring Next Door hints at big things in 2006 after a promising start during last month's Cinema Paradise Film Festival.

For beer drinkers, however, the biggest news is that Bar 35 is now open for business.

Bar 35

Location: 35 N. Hotel St.

Hours: 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily

Call: 537-3535

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WHEN THE revitalization of Hotel Street got started last summer, most of the attention went to thirtyninehotel and its weekly lineup of various art-related and musical events.

Kaspy's, which had opened next door at about the same time, stuck with a traditional Hawaiian theme. Instead of DJs, slam poetry and art installations, the bar offered slack key and an owner who could talk story for hours.

Unfortunately, only thirtyninehotel would receive enough support to remain open. Kaspy's was forced to close within six months of serving its first drink. Soon after, word got out that one of the partners at Indigo wanted to expand in the neighborhood.

That partner was Dave Stewart, and his new venture turned out to be Bar 35. Unlike Indigo, which attracts a lot of wine and martini fans, Stewart's new watering hole caters to the discriminating beer drinker.

With more than 100 different bottled brands available, you don't have to wait for a beer festival to conduct your own international tasting. And with a happy hour every day from 4 to 8 p.m. that offers all 12-ounce bottles for just $3, you won't have to worry about breaking the bank in order to pay for your trip around the world.

Beer lovers need to check out Bar 35, where there are more than 100 bottled brands available. Above, Libette Garcia, left, and George Seabolt hold a sampling of what's on hand.

UNLIKE ITS predecessor, Bar 35 takes a minimalistic approach when it comes to the room's decor. Gone are the potted plants and other flora that used to fill the bar, as are the plain-looking tables and chairs and an elevated stage that served as Kaspy's performance space.

The vibe now is much more stylish, with leather couches and retro chairs that conjure up memories of furniture from the late '70s and early '80s. Brick walls, a high ceiling with beams exposed and minimal lighting help give this spot a New York jazz lounge feel.

But oddly enough, the musical soundtrack here detracts from the overall atmosphere. Instead of Huey Lewis and the News, Billy Joel and Aerosmith, I expected some soft jazz or tasty trance. Sure, the bartender might like the music, but listening to "The Heart of Rock and Roll" in this joint just doesn't do it for me.

GETTING BACK to what I do like -- the beer. Pick up a menu when you first walk in, and you'll find a partial listing of beers that are available.

Once you've given the menu an initial once-over, don't be afraid to ask the bartender if there's anything else worth trying. A number of bottles on the wall behind the bar aren't listed, and it's a lot easier to ask for a little guidance instead of spending the time to examine every last offering.

Other nice touches include a step under the bar that serves as a footrest for customers, along with hooks to hang a jacket or for ladies to hang their purses. A small enclave at the makai end of the room provides space for a few more couches, with a wall separating the area from the rest of the bar and making it feel a little more private.

Since its grand opening earlier this month, Bar 35 is on its way towards becoming a cornerstone in the effort to turn Hotel Street into a more attractive place to visit. Once people get past the grittiness of the surrounding neighborhood and realize that parking isn't as much of a problem as it seems, you'll see bigger crowds in this part of town after dark. It's definitely worth the trip.

How much for a Bud Light?
The Barfly drank Red Stripe ($4.50) during his first visit to Bar 35. Happy hour prices before 8 p.m. also encourage experimentation. Why stick with the tried and true when there are so many other beers to sample here?

Get things to do?
Gone are the Megatouch machines that used to be here when the bar was known as Kaspy's -- all there is to do here is talk story and drink your beer.

What about the grinds?
I'm told a variety of pizzas will be offered eventually, but for the time being you can't get food at Bar 35. I'm sure Stewart would appreciate it if you ate at Indigo first before paying a visit.

And the help?
There wasn't much of a crowd during our visits last weekend and earlier this week, which made it really easy to order a drink. As always, sit at the bar itself for better service.

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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