Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Denver Tiki: Trader Vic's vs. Don the Beachcomber - Part 4

More information about Denver Tiki and the Kahanui.

This is a photo of the main lobby of the Cosmopolitan Hotel in the early 1960's when Trader Vic's opened. It is a beautiful example of mid century design. The front doors that lead to Broadway are in the center of the photo. The lobby entrance to Vic's is just to the left of the main doors.

The Cosmo also had a formal restaurant called the ‘Gun Room’. It had a classic collection of firearms mounted on the walls. The guns had been used to tame the old west. One of the walls housed a collection of buffalo hunting rifles that once belonged to Wild Bill Cody (Buffalo Bill).

Fast forward a few years to 1968, and Vic’s is the victim of a burglary. One of the large exterior tikis was stolen (shown in the sketches in Part 3). I found reference to the theft, but this card at the Denver Library Western History Collection is incorrect. I looked at all variations for that date and could not find the story.

Knowing that one of these large exterior tikis might be floating around the Denver area has always been in the back of my mind. I always keep and extra eye open when browsing antique stores, estate sales and auctions. Maybe I’ll find him someday.

Into the 1970s, and the Cosmo was beginning to show her age. She was now 50 years old and Vic wanted something newer, fresher. The Trader Vic’s corporation already had an established deal with the Hilton chain in other cities, so they moved. Back in 1960, Hilton had opened the brand new Denver Hilton and was thrilled to have Trader Vic’s move in. So in 1978, Trader Vic’s closed up shop at the Cosmo and moved to the Denver Hilton just 3 blocks away.

This is the Denver Hilton in the background and the IM Pei designed structure in the foreground.

1979 ad for Trader Vic’s after they moved out of the Cosmo and into the Hilton in 1978. But it was not all roses when Vic’s moved into their new location. The Polynesian Pop movement was barely standing on its last legs and Vic’s closed up shop in the Hilton in 1985. Never to return to Denver.


  1. Wow! What a find that stolen tiki would be! Where would you hide/sell such an item?

    This has been a very interesting series! Thank you!

  2. I worked at Trader Vics in 1979 as the Maitre d. Any one else work there from Jan-April 1979?