Carrie Rengers

Lava & Tonic combination tiki bar and speakeasy to open this spring

Alex Thomas, center, is opening the Lava & Tonic tiki bar with Paul and Jennifer Drace.
Alex Thomas, center, is opening the Lava & Tonic tiki bar with Paul and Jennifer Drace. The Wichita Eagle

You’ve no doubt heard of a speakeasy, but a tikieasy?

That’s the vibe that bar owner Alex Thomas says he and friends Paul and Jennifer Drace are going for with a new tiki bar, Lava & Tonic, they’re planning.

Paul Drace, who performs in the band Monterey Jack with Thomas, approached him with the idea a couple of years ago.

“No, I don’t think that’ll work,” said Thomas, who is a partner in Kirby’s Beer Store, Barleycorn’s and the Cotillion and owns Lucky’s Everyday.

His opinion changed when he went to Chicago’s Three Dots and A Dash, which is a popular tiki bar that has a speakeasy-style entrance off an alley with no sign telling customers it’s there.

Next Thomas tried TikiCat in Kansas City.

Come on a tour as Chow Town Live visits TikiCat, a hot new tiki bar with loads of ambiance, thanks to tiki designer Bamboo Ben. A bartender named Puka Pumba serves up tropical craft cocktails in this secret oasis in the basement of HopCat in Westp

He says he then declared, “If I ever do another bar in Wichita, I’m going to do a tiki bar.”

Thomas says he and the Draces are close to a deal on space, most likely in the downtown area.

“We want to kind of keep it under wraps because we’re still working out the details,” Thomas says.

Also, he says, “We kind of wanted to be a little exclusive at first.”

The Draces weren’t looking to get in the bar business, but Paul Drace says his wife’s design background fits perfectly with a tiki bar.

“The tiki bar has some super-serious design elements.”

He says they have to be careful with the Hawaiian-Polynesian-Asian accents “or you’re going to go full on old-school cheesy.”

Drace says they want to create a destination.

“We want that feel as if you are someplace different,” he says. “Not the average bar.”

There will be a lot of rum-based drinks with a variety of juices in tiki glasses that are adorned with fruit. There also will be a tiki-style menu.

Thomas says LMNO Pizza is helping them create some tapas-style Polynesian pizzas. They also plan sushi and some partnerships with food trucks as well.

Thomas says they’d like to have some special events in the parking lot.

“There’s a lot of opportunity to bring people there.”

They’re looking to open Lava & Tonic in late February or early March.

Thomas compares the tiki bar’s possibility to what Kirby’s has experienced.

“It has a place in the Wichita scene, and I feel like this one will, too.”

Reach Carrie Rengers at 316-268-6340 or crengers@wichitaeagle.com.
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