rader Vic’s, that last outpost of Los Angeles’ tiki-bar zeitgeist of the 1950s and 1960s, has all but been sent back to Polynesia. The iconic restaurant and bar that stood at the intersection of Santa Monica and Wilshire boulevards in Beverly Hills, just outside the Hilton Hotel, and that served as a watering hole to the Rat Pack and other celebrities of the era, and sparked a host of other Island-themed bars and hangouts (remember Kelbos in West Los Angeles?) was shuttered in the still of the night on April 29.
The now 30-strong chain of restaurants was created by Victor Jules Bergeron as Hinky Dink’s in 1934 in Oakland, Calif. In 1944, changing his name to Trader Vic, Bergeron created the famous rum-based mai tai drink. The Beverly Hills restaurant was established in 1955. According to a story in the Los Angeles Times:
Plans call for the former Trader Vic’s building and part of the Hilton to eventually be replaced by a new Waldorf Astoria Hotel and two luxury condominium buildings. The project is part of a $500-million expansion of the existing hotel complex.
The community of hard-core tiki enthusiasts is taking the change badly — seeing it as the end of a much-beloved era. (The) plans were public knowledge and the closure was expected at some point. But many complain bitterly of being blindsided by the sudden move and deprived of the chance for a final old-times-sake mai tai.
Many fans had resigned themselves to the restaurant’s eventual end, but assumed there would be an extended series of events to properly bid it farewell. Hilton officials, however, seemed determined to close the original Vic’s, “under cover of night, with an utter lack of pomp,” wrote a blogger who goes by the name Humuhumu. “Trader Vic’s deserved a full state funeral and a raging wake. Instead it was buried in a cardboard box under an unmarked grave.”
A new scaled-down version opened Thursday next to the Hilton pool, offering a limited food menu but some of the same signature cocktails.