The Lucky Tiki is back from the dead—and now it’s one of the hottest bars in West Hollywood

After 18 years, the 1933 Group resurrected their long-gone Valley tiki bar above Tail o’ the Pup. Here’s how they did it.

Patricia Kelly Yeo
Food & Drink Editor, Time Out Los Angeles
The Lucky Tiki bar area
Photograph: Jesse Hsu for Time Out

It’s not every day that a new tiki bar opens in Los Angeles, so when the Lucky Tiki debuted in West Hollywood at the end of March, I knew I had to visit. The only problem? It’s one of the hardest reservations in town. Four nighttime visits, over a dozen different cocktails and a lot of Resy wrangling later, I’m happy to report the speakeasy-style cocktail lounge behind Tail o’ the Pup earned a four-star review from Time Out. Even if you aren’t the biggest fan of rum or sugary drinks, I still think it’s worth heading to the Lucky Tiki, which offers one of the most transportive drinking experiences in the city. 

What I didn’t realize, at least at first, is that the Lucky Tiki isn’t new, not entirely. In 2004, Bobby Green, Dimitri Komarov and Dmitry Liberman, the trio behind the prolific 1933 Group, first opened the Lucky Tiki inside a former dive bar in the Valley they’d landed through a probate auction. When a developer decided to raze the entire block, the trio closed the bar after just a year and a half. Over the next two decades, Green and his business partners went on to open other bars like Oldfield’s Liquor Room in Palms and Harlowe in West Hollywood, but they never got the chance to reopen the Lucky Tiki—that is, until now. It might have taken 18 years, but the bar’s not only back in business, it’s one of the buzziest drinking experiences in Los Angeles right now.  

The Lucky Tiki atmosphere
Photograph: Jesse Hsu for Time OutEvery inch of the Lucky Tiki is covered in island-inspired memorabilia, plus plenty of original art pieces..

From the minute you enter the space, every inch of the Lucky Tiki is decked out in themed decor. When you first walk through the beaded curtain, an eight-foot tall tiki statue towers over you. Bamboo and tropical prints cover the walls, and eight unique hand-carved wooden stools grace the small bar area, one of the many carryovers from the Valley original. In fact, over 80 percent of the decor inside is from the original bar, according to Green. (The craft cocktail menu by 1933 Group’s beverage director David Ray and the killer secret food menu by Tail o’ the Pup’s Jacob Cusano are both new, however.)

A history nerd to the core, Green takes pride in describing every aspect of the Lucky Tiki. The blown glass globes covered in nets? Traditional Japanese fishing floats, which now retail for hundreds of dollars on Ebay. “You have to be either deeply ingrained into the culture and know the culture of the tiki world very well, or really do your research because it’s pretty easy to get it wrong,” he says. 

The Lucky Tiki stairwell
Photograph: Jesse Hsu for Time OutThe view from downstairs.

“[The developer was] like, ‘I’m paying you a bunch of money to go away.’ And so we said, ‘Okay, you know what? We could probably find a better location to do the Lucky Tiki,’” recalls Green, the design-oriented partner within the three-man group. Despite the trio’s best intentions, all the decor and paraphernalia from the Lucky Tiki collected dust in the group’s enormous warehouse in Burbank. Other hospitality endeavors, including renovating and taking over the historic Formosa Cafe, pulled the 1933 Group in other directions, and for 18 years, that was that.

After reviewing the Lucky Tiki, I reached out to Green for an in-depth interview on how the bar’s fateful resurrection as a speakeasy-style experience in West Hollywood came about. In truth, it wasn’t until Green and his partners took over and reopened the iconic Tail o’ the Pup in 2022 that they seriously considered bringing back the bar.

The hand-carved bar stools at the Lucky Tiki.
Photograph: Jesse Hsu for Time OutThe hand-carved bar stools at the Lucky Tiki.

“There was this little bar upstairs that had been built out from the restaurant that was there before us, but we also knew it was the Doors’ recording studio,” says Green. As a result, the space was up to code, with a full liquor license; the only thing left was coming up with an idea. Initially, his thought was a bar that paid homage to the space’s musical history. It took a year of the team thinking it over for the team to decide the idea didn’t have legs. After that, the 1933 Group turned to an obvious backup: bringing back their beloved Lucky Tiki.

Given the group’s gigantic warehouse in Burbank, there was plenty to work with from the original bar. Much of the decor was commissioned by Green in the early aughts. Back then, he drew upon his large network of talented, ultra-specialized tiki artists and designers to acquire everything from hand-carved wooden bar stools to thatched bamboo lamps for the original bar in the Valley.

A tiki mug collection and Japanese fishing float lamps are just a few of the bar's many thematic element.
Photograph: Jesse Hsu for Time OutA tiki mug collection and Japanese fishing float lamps are just a few of the bar's many thematic element.

You might be asking how one gets connected to the “tiki community,” so to speak, especially when we’re considering all of this was happening in the early aughts before widespread adoption of social media and smartphones. As it turns out, the Lucky Tiki hasn’t been Green’s only tiki project. In the 1990s, Green’s first ever foray into hospitality as a man in his early 20s was a tiki sci-fi-themed coffee shop named Cacao. The quirkily appointed café attracted tiki enthusiasts from all over, enabling the budding entrepreneur to build his network of artists trained in Polynesian wood carvings and other specialties that fall under the umbrella of tiki art.

According to Green, a tiki bar is never complete. “The more layers and layers you have, the better the place gets,” he says. Since opening in late March, Green and his partners have received several donations, including a pair of Polynesian records from the 1950s and a hand drawn map of Hawaii. The most surprising gift, however, has been a long-missing wooden carving of the Dancing Tiki, the bar’s original mascot. 

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Carved by veteran tiki artist Kirby Fleming, the piece was stolen from the original bar in 2005. Shortly after reopening in West Hollywood, someone reached out with the piece, which they’d bought from a yard sale several years ago. “We framed it, and now it’s hung up, but it’s secured to the wall,” says Green, laughing. “It won’t be stolen again.” 

Reception to the new Lucky Tiki has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Green, from the sheer number of people trying to snag reservations to returning customers from the original Lucky Tiki coming back to visit the bar’s newest iteration. While modern-day tiki culture is undeniably rooted in colonialism and exoticization of Polynesian and Hawaiian culture, as well as much of Asia—particularly Southeast Asia—he sees tiki culture as both an original, unfiltered offshoot of American culture and a product of its time. 

Green considers coconut shrimp (located in the bottom right) to be the culinary equivalent of a tiki bar.
Photograph: Jesse Hsu for Time OutGreen considers coconut shrimp (located in the bottom right) to be the culinary equivalent of a tiki bar.

“They were just taking this idea of Polynesia, of paradise, whether it’s a real place or an absolutely fictional place, the spirit of vacation in a way,” says Green. “And Americans have done that with everything.” 

When the original Don the Beachcomber opened in Hollywood in 1934, the only way most Americans had any understanding of the tropics was largely through firsthand tales told by traveling friends and family and whatever could be gleaned through newspaper, books and the radio. Today, we live in a world where we can see pictures of almost anywhere in the world on our phones, he adds, but previous generations didn’t have that luxury. “These tiki bars were ways to share a place that they could never go to or maybe never see in their life,” Green says. 

the lucky tiki
Photograph: Jesse Hsu for Time Out

“And just because we can see photos of [these places] on our phone now doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate that time in American history. Sometimes I wish I couldn’t see half of the world on my phone.” 

As a self-taught design historian, Green has the knowledge of period-accurate designs, materials and styles to successfully pull off a tiki bar. (He’s also applied this know-how to the restoration of the Formosa Cafe, Idle Hour and of course, Tail o’ the Pup.) “It’s a gift I have, and I’m lucky I have it, but in a sense, I call it a time travel experience,” Green says. “If you really, really get it right, you can create a momentary time travel experience in that space for people and your guests.” 

In fact, the response to the Lucky Tiki’s reopening has been so positive, Green says the group is considering opening a second outpost somewhere else in L.A. “Some location that doesn’t have anything like it nearby,” he adds, which rules out much of the San Fernando Valley, home to many of L.A.’s tiki bars. While I won’t hold my breath (L.A. commercial real estate is rough, after all), I’ll definitely be returning to this iteration of the Lucky Tiki the next time I’m craving a taste of the tropics and a sense of escape.

The Lucky Tiki Old Fashioned at the Lucky Tiki
Photograph: Jesse Hsu for Time Out

The Lucky Tiki earned four stars from us. For more details on booking, food and drink and service, read our full review.

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