Things move at a different pace here in San Diego. National trends take a long time to reach us, but sometimes, we’re lucky enough to find ourselves at the cutting edge of one -- not because we’re on top of our game per se, but because we’re still enjoying it from its first incarnation.
Specifically, the Tiki bar, that beloved, tropical-themed, lighthearted appeal to the vacationer in everyone. Tiki’s national origins can be traced back to two people: Victor Bergeron, and the aptly named Donn Beach, both of whom claimed to have invented the Mai Tai. Both opened bars in 1937 that became famous in American Tiki lore: Trader Vic’s in Oakland and Don the Beachcomber in Hollywood. Each restaurant spawned its own national chain and ignited a Tiki craze that continued well past World War II.
Sometime after the collective hangover that was the 1970s, Tiki died out nationwide. It became the bar equivalent of staying too late at a party: the stale fried food, decaying kitsch, and too-sugary drinks combined with death-and-destruction jungle footage from Vietnam made everyone feel just a little bit... sad. And so, in keeping with the definition of “trend,” Tiki faded away, making room for the more serious drinking endeavors of the ‘80s and ‘90s, like cocaine-fueled parties soaked in Long Island iced teas, amaretto sours, blue curaçao-laden drinks, and shots like “Sex on the Beach.” Both Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic’s closed most of their locations in the ‘80s.