Kahale’s in Kihei will celebrate their new look and ownership this Saturday with an all-day-into-night Grand Re-Opening party. New owner Katie Karsten bought the bar from long-time owners George Brinner, Rick Wilson and partners and took over in January. She’s been making subtle changes ever since.
“I was not in the bar business before I bought Kahale’s,” says Karsten. “I was in the dental business in Alaska. I was fortunate to have a young guy come in to the business, and we just monopolized in Anchorage. We ended up with three dental offices, buying consolidating and selling practices. Then I had gone through a lot of things in the last two years. My mother passed and I was looking for something different. I was thinking bar and beach. I was looking for a bar to buy, and this was the one I wanted. As soon as I found out it was for sale, I got a plane ticket to Maui.”
Karsten has pulled out the old carpet, upgraded the restrooms and created a new dance floor and live music area. But her focus has always been to keep the locals and keep the name. She hired Melanie Kehau King as the bar manager, who knows the story of the bar from when it opened in 1994.
“The original owner and founder that started the bar in 1994 was George Brinner and his best friend was Kahale Akina, and that was my mother’s brother,” says King. “I remember as kid coming in here that it was a family spot.”
Karsten also added new entertainment and is hosting new themed nights.
“We do a ladies’ night once month–the next one is August 21st,” says Karsten. “I did a big Super Bowl party when we opened up. I added some TVs. I want people to come here to watch sports and football. We are gonna do some bar olympics, beer pong, games and things like that. We want the 35 and older crowd. People who get off work and want to have a beer, they want to have a good time. The vendors have been a great help. Budweiser has brought in their local brew. On Saturday, for the blessing we will have $2 Bud all day.”
She says she’s also added lights to the dance floor but wouldn’t call it a club environment “by any stretch of the imagination.” Karsten added a new sound system as she plays with the weekly line up of live music seven nights a week.
“I have changed the rotation a bit,” says Karsten. “We have everything from cover bands to country music. Monday nights I have John Ness; he is amazing. Tuesday nights we have country music. Wednesday it’s Natalie Nicole–she is so soulful. She has this voice that just resonates. The Crunch Pups are new to us. They played here a very long time ago, disbanded and now they’re back. Thursday nights have been a huge hit. 8 Track Players are always Saturday nights. We want to have talent that has never played here before like the Tflatz and the Highlights this Friday.”
But Kasten insists that Kahale’s will remain a beer and shot bar. They don’t blend drinks and don’t use umbrellas, but they make a mean mai tai and their beer is ice cold. She took a few items off the food menu to streamline, but they still have wings ($5) and fries ($8) hot off the auto fry, plus other snacks. Prices are always reasonable on their drinks, too.
“I really want to invite people that haven’t been here in a while to come back in and check it out, see what’s new,” says Karsten. “If you didn’t like it, give us another chance. I know we are kinda known as a biker bar, which is great. These guys are in here just like everybody else. But I really want the people who have that in their brain to give it one more chance. It’s Kahale’s, it’s a dive bar. There is gonna be biker sitting right there, and there is gonna be an attorney sitting right here. That’s just the way it’s going to be. I think they will enjoy it.”
On Saturday, the Grand Opening starts at 10:30am and will go into the evening with bands all day, a blessing at noon, people’s favorite side dishes and libations provided by the bar.
Kahale’s–Maui’s Local Dive Bar
36 Keala Pl., Kihei