As part of our latest issue’s feature on California, we took a look at a few of the tropical bars that have been helping CA residents escape the mundane for years.
We caught up with Maria Solorio to learn more about Pacific Seas.
Tell us a little about the history of your bar?
Clifford Clinton originally created the Pacific Seas in 1931 at a location on Olive Street in Downtown LA. At first, he named it the Cafeteria of the Tropics and decorated it with several palm trees. It was so wildly popular with guests that he completely remodeled the place shortly thereafter to include waterfalls, thatched huts, neon palm trees and Polynesian decorations — creating the world’s first fully immersive tropical environment — a few years before Don the Beachcomber was founded nearby in Hollywood. The location wasn’t a bar, but would feature performers, dances and other social activities that eventually blended with Tiki culture.
The location became on of LA’s most beloved escapes, and it served as the inspiration for Disney to create his Enchanted Tiki Room some twenty years later. It was also the location where Jack Kerouac launched his On the Road adventure and was integral to LA’s popular culture. It was demolished in 1960 when the lease wasn’t renewed. We utilized many original decorations and inspirations to build the current Pacific Seas as an homage to the great tropical themed environments from the past — including Don the Beachcomber, Pacific Seas, Trader Vic’s, Bahooka and others.
Can you share your opinions on why have tropical inspired (tiki) themes made such a resurgence, do you think it will continue to be popular?
Tiki was always the most exotic form of escapism. Where else could a guest go to journey to an exotic land of fantasy and beauty for the cost of a drink? It emerged out of the Golden Era of Travel in the 1930’s when a Depression wary public needed a respite from the day-to-day chaos and instability of the time. Unable to journey across the seas, it allowed average people to go on an adventure within their own neighborhood and escape the sorrows of the time.
Its re-emergence is tied directly to another era of great change — with technology, politics, and changing demographics fueling a new boom in fantasy and escapism. As people become more and more alienated from an impersonal digital world (especially now during the Pandemic) they are drawn to fantasy and escape — ways to truly journey out of their daily lives and into a wonderland.
When making a Tiki inspired cocktail, what would you say the most important elements to include are?
The most important ingredients are keeping the quality level high — featuring fresh fruits and mixers. Tiki had become synonymous with overly sweet cheap fruity drinks over the years. However, original Tiki consisted of fine ingredients, quality and unique spirits, and a sense of whimsy, curiosity, and adventure!