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Bootlegger Tiki, PALM SPRINGS, CA (bar)

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Name:Bootlegger Tiki
Street:1101 N PALM CANYON DR.

Here at Bootlegger Tiki we stand for good old fashioned fun! We can't imagine anything better than quality time spent with friends over delicious tiki cocktails made with equal measure of rum + fruit + love. Located in the same space as the original Don the Beachcomber restaurant that opened in 1953, we are fortunate to inherit an incredible piece of Palm Springs history and want to uphold the tiki traditions that were originally built here - craft cocktails, good friends and a couple of giant tiki torches thrown in for good measure.

Brought to you by the same team as Ernest Coffee, the fun begins at happy hour everyday, seven days a week. You could say these two spaces are attached at the hip...they share a custom built outdoor patio with amazing mountain views. Ernest Coffee opens every morning at 6am serving delicious Stumptown Coffee and a selection of beer and wine. And when Bootlegger Tiki opens at 4pm, the coffee shop simultaneously transitions to a wine bar. So take your pick - classic tiki cocktails in the intimate back bar, or wine and beer at the front of the house. Want to mix it up? See what's happening on the patio. Stop by for a drink and let's continue to build upon the decades of tiki rum and fun that started right here in this spot all those years ago.

I haven't been yet so maybe somebody could add a review.

This article has pictures of the basement space under Bootlegger Tiki. The speculation is it used to be a gambling den.


The sprawling, mid-century modern complex at 140 Via Lola in Palm Springs is in the throes of a renaissance.

The property includes a long, rectangular, glass-facade building that faces Palm Canyon Drive and houses four — soon to be five — businesses and a handful of vacation rental apartments on the second floor, above the retail/restaurant level.

Behind the building, extending west on Via Lola, is a sparkling swimming pool and more apartment units — 38 in all.

The street-facing building — former home of Don the Beachcomber, one of the many Polynesian-style dining establishments opened by Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt, known as the founding father of tiki restaurants, bars and nightclubs — is being re-imagined by the owners of Palm Springs-based H3K Design.

"We've taken a mid-century modern building and re-envisioned it for the 21st century," H3K Design co-owner Howard Hawkes said.

Renovation on the property — owned by Tim Brinkman and Paul Warrin of San Francisco — began in the spring of 2012 when Hawkes and partner Kevin Kemper went to work on the living spaces, installing new kitchens and bathrooms.

The crisp, white exterior is accented with bright orange awnings that match the poolside lounge chairs. Glass and metal railings frame the upstairs apartments and outdoor staircase.

Four tenants are already installed in the former Don the Beachcomber home, which opened March 2, 1953 in the new Sunset Towers building, as it was called at the time.

The building was constructed in 1951.

Ernest Coffee Co., named for the founder of the chain of Don the Beachcomber restaurants, Bootlegger Tiki, Archangel Gallery and Woodman Shimko Gallery are up and running. The design team is currently working on a 5,800 square-foot renovation at the far north end of the building that will soon be home to Dish Creative Cuisine. Dish chef/owners Joane Garcia-Colson and Michelle Heinrich hope to have the restaurant up and running by mid-October. Dish is moving from its location in Cathedral City, where it has operated for the past two years.

The basement of the building is a maze of tunnels that eventually dead end into block
walls. One tunnel, a crawl-hole-sized space just below street level under Dish is said to lead under Palm Canyon Drive to what is now Desert Regional Medical Center. In those days, it was the El Mirador Hotel. Entry to the small hole burrowed into the block wall is closed off, jail cell-style, by rebar.

"Rumor has it that it was an escape route if people were down there gambling," Hawkes said.

There are a number of large storage-type rooms — speakeasy sized — and a huge walk-in refrigerator/freezer with a vintage wooden door. A small elevator, painted yellow inside, sits near a creaky staircase. In a small niche nearby, the bottom of an old dumbwaiter hovers near a vent that pours daylight into the space.

Back in its hey-day, the restaurant and bar, which occupied the entire building, was frequented by Hollywood elite and the who's who in business and industry.

Opening night, as reported by The Desert Sun at the time, was a star-studded affair — glitz and glamour under the backdrop of the tropics.

"The haunting beauty of the islands expressed in architecture, tropical plantings and matting-covered walls," wrote Hildy Crawford in her column, Around Town. "Cantonese food and drinks with such improbable names as 'Missionary's Downfall, marked the opening of Don the Beachcomber ... paddles, harpoons, wooden shields and shells from the beaches carry out the decor. Over the bar hangs a bunch of bananas and a quaint bamboo bird cage."

Opening night parties were hosted by the likes of singer/actor Bing Crosby, film director/producer Mervyn LeRoy - he became head of production at MGM in 1938 and was nominated for an Academy Award as producer of "The Wizard of Oz," Col. Winthrop Rockefeller, who would become the 37th governor of Arkansas in 1967, and radio comedian Freeman Gosden, who voiced Amos in the "Amos 'n' Andy" show.

And the famous didn't only frequent the the popular establishment - some even lived on the property.

"There were a handful of noteworthy people who lived in the building back in the day," Hawkes said.

Those include interior designer Arthur Elrod, local fashion designer Bess Bender, Ray Ryan, owner of the El Mirador Hotel — he was purported to have ties to the Mob — Palm Springs City Councilman and Mayor George Beebee and actor Zeppo Marx.

Hawkes said the property operated more like a hotel during the time Don the Beachcomber was in business. There was a cafe on the premises that served breakfast and lunch.

The building has gone through several incarnations through the years, and was in a state of disrepair when the current owners bought the property, Hawkes said.

In just a few months, the Dish renovation will be complete and the designers might turn their attention to the basement. There's a rumor a speakeasy might be on tap.

We were just out in Palm Springs for a few days
Gay Pride weekend was going on & the city was raging
I myself made it to the front entrance, but after
seeing the Psychedelic Furs, Drinks at the Tonga Hut
I needed my old man nap, Kelly (Trader Sams) & Spike (Hula Girls)
still had enough energy to make it inside & promptly disappeared for some hours, and they said.....

Drinks are very good, place is very small, could use a bit more decor
The young lady who was bar tending was super nice & knew her stuff
the one big complaint was the awful music playing (Hip Hop/Techno)
everyone who went would definitely go back again, and this was from a hardcore Tiki crowd.

Yes to everything that ATP said. Needs more decor and better music, but the cocktails were VERY impressive and the staff was super attentive to us. I'd go back in a heartbeat.

hip in a tiki bar?


we were out that way for a wedding and stopped by, sadly it hadn't opened yet, but looked really really cool, and had heard from the locals that it was a great place! took some pix and will definitely be back after 4:00PM next time. since we only live 30+ miles from Palm Springs, we plan to make the trip soon!! the coffee shop in the front was awesome, super friendly staff and really good Java, cant wait to give a real review on the bar!!!


Tonga Hut was closed this evening so CeCe and I checked out the Bootlegger. I had a ’34 Zombie, CeCe had a French 75 . Mine was excellent , CeCe’s was “good”. She said it needed mo “bubbles” Champagne may have been a little flat-I use Proseco at the Sharkbite Bar and there’s never a chance that it’ll be flat The tiki decor/construction is not 1rst rate but not everyone is a Ben, Danny , or Monkeyman. That said, we both felt that " tiki vibe” at the Bootlgger and I hope they’re around for a long long time. Check em out!
Btw, there’s an 8’ dia. steel faux bamboo vertical support at one end of the bar that dates back to when the room was part of the Beachcomber.


I visited Bootlegger Tiki two evenings this last week and was highly impressed.

First, no hip-hop or techno, thank Lono! Wed night they were rocking surf classics. Friday was kind of classic rock, which is sort of how Tiki Ti rolls as well from what I recall.

Decor is pretty simple but sweet. The place is tiny, with lots of red lights casting a glow. There's a nice small patio outside in front but I hung out at the bar.

History: in spades! Don the Beachcomber had a place right there, and there are apparently tunnels under the building that used to run bootleg booze into the place during prohibition. Thus the name.

Bartender: Chad is the beverage manager/bartender and he knows what he is doing. I mean, really knows. I got the impression if I named any drink from the BBB books he could mix it up from memory. A very friendly guy who was happy to chat about rums, tiki, syrups and anything else while he mixed up drinks.

Drinks: Here is where the place shined. I had a brand new drink not on menu yet called the Kingslayer that was just delectable. It had Smith & Cross, Campari, pineapple and lime, and lots of other stuff which I already forgot. I'm not a big campari fan but it was phenomenal. Sorry this photo makes the drink look pink because of the red lights - it was actually a nice shade of yellow-orange.

We were talking white rums and Chad made me a daiquiri using Cana Brava. It was simply the best daiquiri I've ever had.

The next time in I started with one of their signature drinks, the Pod Thai. This was just amazing. Selvarey rum, coconut cream, lime, Thai basil, and cardomom/lemongrass syrup. Immediately became one of my top 10 favorite drinks. Such a unique flavor.

I had a hard time choosing between a Mai Tai and a Zombie. Both are made in classic Don the Beach style. Chad made me a hybrid of the two. It was excellent and strong.

I also met the owner who was very friendly and seemed to really take pride in what they were doing. The clientele was ok (some yahoos were ordering beer, vodka tonics and glasses of merlot. The less said about that the better). The price/value for the drinks was pretty oustanding. All in all I was genuinely, seriously impressed. I thought about not posting this because I kind of want to keep this place more of a secret so I can get a seat at the bar without cuing outside at 3:30 in the 110 degree Palm Springs sun, but I owe these guys a review as they really went out of their way to make me some fantastic drinks.


I took these pictures on a recent trip to Palm Springs, the bar was not open when we got there but I got a chance to see it and take some pictures. Next time we will make sure we get there when they are open.

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