Tide goes out for tiki legend

Iconic Trader Vic's comes to an end

If the angels of Hollywood drink in heaven, they’re going to have a new place to get tanked.

Trader Vic’s, the tiki-fied Beverly Hilton watering hole known for 52 years as a hotbed of Polynesian pulchritude, closed its doors April 29.

Where once swung leis and rum-drenched good times will soon swing the wrecking ball, part of a $500 million condo expansion plan by owner Beny Alagem, who purchased the property from Merv Griffin in 2003.

The modernist structure once attracted the luau-loving glitterati as well as pu pu platter-picking politicos like JFK, Nixon and Gov. Reagan. In recent years, Vic’s has played host to Golden Globes after-parties, and it still attracts tourists and mai tai buffs, but apparently that wasn’t enough to keep the doors open.

“It’s not a viable restaurant at that location,” says Marie Garvey, spokesman for Alagem’s Oasis West Realty, which licenses the concern from Trader Vic’s Restaurants. “What we want to do is invigorate the brand and keep it at the Beverly Hilton.”

The decor, the staff and the all-important bartenders will be relocating poolside as a lounge, with drinks and appetizers only.

“We’re going to kind of create that same atmosphere, though it’ll be a little different,” Garvey concedes. “It’ll certainly have a lot more light.”

A lot more light? To tiki aficionados, that’s heresy.

“PR-shaped statements about respecting what the ‘loyal customers’ love about Trader Vic’s ring quite hollow,” notes a posting on the Humu Kon Tiki blog at www.humuhumu.com. “They seem to think that the public will swallow anything with the Trader Vic’s name on it. They’ve completely lost touch with what makes them interesting and unique.”

In coming months, Trader Vic’s will follow the likes of the Brown Derby, the Trocadero, Don the Beachcomber’s and the Luau.

It’ll crumble and disappear, taking with it the ghosts of film deals made over Fog Cutters, of Voodoo Grog-laden victory parties, of Nixon in flickering torchlight, quietly swilling a Suffering Bastard.

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