The Lei Away plans to whisk participants away to tropical splendor, courtesy of one local with an epic tiki basement bar
Celebrate “Lei-bor Day” weekend by escaping the doldrums of August and ushering in the social season with ports of call at several Kansas City bars, including Northtown’s own Tiki Huna, Mitch e Amaro, Cinder Block Brewing Co., and Screenland Armour!
This inaugural event features exclusive cocktails, live music, live art, seminars and workshops, a makers market, plus an aloha brunch at Hi-Tides Coffee (Crossroads neighborhood) and a new beer collaboration at Cinder Block. The event was started as a love letter to tropical culture, but after recent wildfires on Maui, a timely two-part fundraiser party was added that will take place at Hi-Tides featuring the bartending crew from the recently closed SoT bar and live music from Sina S’ua and Alo Key. This portion of the weekend is $35 per person for either the first or second session, with a portion of proceeds paying for relief efforts on the island. Before the event, in the parking lot at Hi-Tides, see traditional Polynesian dances, representing four island communities – Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa, and New Zealand, including a fire dance!
EDIT: If you are unable to attend the Lei Away events this weekend, but still want to donate to Maui relief– the organizers suggest these three organizations:
- “The House of Life” – Ka Hale, a Ke Ola Homeless Resource Centers Inc.
- Maui Humane Society
- Kokua Restaurant and Hospitality Fund for Maui
North Kansas City tiki happenings
The event has multiple events in NKC this weekend, including rum tastings at Mitch e Amaro, a tiki pop-up from Creeper’s Cove at Screenland’s Rewind Video bar (paired with a Friday Night Frights showing of killer shark cult film Deep Blue Sea), a collaboration beer release party with Cinder Block Brewing for their Lei Away Kaiāulu Beer (with DJ and live music), a celebration of Kansas Public Radio’s Retro Cocktail Hour’s 1000th episode– broadcast live from Tiki Huna with host Darrell Brogdon… And rounding out the event is a four-bartender RUM RUMBLE competition where four bartenders will go toe-to-toe crafting their best tiki concoction to the tunes of Candice Hill’s Caribbean steel pan!
What’s all this then?
Lei Away is the cool tropical baby of several area tiki aficionados, most notably Northtown resident Jordan Waterman. After talking up the event’s themed music, live art exhibitions, 20+ vendors and makers, and food and drink specials, Waterman spoke about his own journey into tiki– at a short-lived magical basement speakeasy. “When Tiki Cat opened in Westport, it became a favorite place of mine. I loved being able to escape for a couple hours and enjoy friends and community and great cocktails.”
After Tiki Cat closed in 2020, Waterman took inspiration from its immersive setting and built his own love letter to the bar (and many home tiki bars he’s seen covered in Tiki Tom-Tom’s “Polynesiacs: Tiki at Home” coffee table book– which Waterman’s own basement bar, dubbed “The Black Flamingo“, appeared in, thanks to a highlight captured during a visit from Mr. Tom-Tom himself, all the way from North Carolina).
Wait, North Kansas City has basements?
Festooned to every corner of this escapist paradise are tropical plants, puffer fish, antique diving helmets, floats and other various flotsam and jetsam. Waterman was even able to snag some items formerly adorning Tiki Cat for his own collection. The bamboo, palm frond and rattan finishings on each surface do their job of locking you into this carefully crafted world, and visiting bartenders and hobbyists mix it up with their host, crafting meticulous drinks for private parties– whether for a couple dozen friends or an intimate quartet.
“It’s hard to say how many visitors we get. It’s kind of when I have time and the ability to have it opened up. I usually like to do it for people I know…”
That said, the intriguing photos posted to Black Flamingo’s Instagram page have helped solicit interest from a wide variety of tiki enthusiasts and cocktail connoisseurs from around the web– leading to new friendships and various show-and-tell excursions for collections across the country.
Travels aside, Waterman always shows his love for the local cocktail culture right here in North Kansas City. “I love living here and being part of the community, which makes it especially exciting to see local spots like Mitch e Amaro, Cinder Block Brewery, Tiki Huna and Screenland Armour be a part of Lei Away weekend!”
He’s also quick to shout out Team Lei Away too, “It’s been a privilege to organize this labor of love with Johnny and Michelle of Hi-Tides coffee, Bryan of the Tiki Bar T-Shirt Club, and Heather Getz. Everyone’s skills and passions have made it possible for this event to go from idea to reality.” These organizers are looking to team up again sometime, if the event proves to be a success.
“We hope this year is the first of many! There are so many amazing people and businesses here in the city and in the Midwest, and we are honored and excited to shine a spotlight on them.”
(featured image by Sam Jones for RiverNorth Business League and Pint Path Pub Crawl)