Friday, December 10, 2010

Denver Tiki: Trader Vic's vs. Don the Beachcomber - Part 6

More information about Denver Tiki and the Kahanui.

The late 1970s and early 1980s was a good time for tiki bars in Denver. Vic's and Dons were both open and operating downtown. Then, in 1981, while still operating at the Cosmo, Don’s opened a second location in the Denver area, out in Aurora in the Ramada Renaissance Hotel.

For a short period of time (1981-1984), Denver was the place to be for tiki bars. Trader Vic’s in the Downtown Hilton was open, Don the Beachcomber in the Plaza Cosmopolitan was open (only 3 blocks away), and a second Don the Beachcomber was also open in Aurora. To top that off, the best of all of Denver’s tiki establishments was also operating at the same time, Tommy Wong’s Island (interior designed by famed tiki restaurant designer George Nakashima, who also designed the Mai Kai updates, the Mauna Loa in Detroit and all of the Kon Tiki/Ports O Call for Stephen Crane Associates). It is really surprising that tiki lasted so late into the 1980’s here in Denver.

A listing from a 1981 phone book for both of the Don the Beachcomber locales.

When the Cosmo closed, they held an estate sale and literally everything was for sale. There was a story about the sale in an old Denver Post newspaper article and I remember the first guy in line was there to buy the entire firearm collection from the Gun Room. The article also said that the entire contents of Don the Beachcomber had already been purchased by a single buyer before the public sale for $65,000.

As scheduled, the Cosmo came down in May 1984.

And that new office building that was to be built in its place? The site remains a parking lot to this day. The red circle was the location for both Trader Vic’s and Don the Beachcomber.

You can see the Brown Palace across the street (right side of the photo). She is 100+ years now.


  1. Great series! I really enjoyed reading it.

  2. Incredible series, and GREAT pictures. Thanks for posting!!