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Name:Lost Lei
Type:bar
Street:117 W. 4th Street
City:Austin
State:TX
Zip:78701
country:USA
Phone:(512) 402-5518
Status:operational

Description:
The Lost Lei opened May 15, 2019 in Austin. From their website: The Lost Lei is Austin's sassiest destination tiki bar.

We are Austin’s premier tropical tiki bar and craft cocktail destination, where you and your friends can enjoy a rum-soaked nighttime escape. The Lost Lei proudly boasts Austin’s most extensive rum list and spirit variety, offering everyone an opportunity to indulge in their preferred cocktail. Surrender all your cares and let The Lost Lei whisk you away into a rum-soaked colorful nighttime escape.

Austin has been without a true tiki experience since Steak Island on Town Lake was converted into the Magic Time Machine back in the 1970s. After visiting Lost Lei during their grand opening party, it's clear Austin's going to have to wait a while longer to get its tiki fix. To say their website descriptions are an exaggeration is an understatement.

It's located in the basement beneath Capital Grille. It's dark, which any good tiki bar should be. It's also noisy. Incredibly noisy. The floor was stained concrete, the walls covered with faux stone and the high ceilings are industrial and bare. It's the Spartan aesthetic that ensures every noise will echo and amplify, with absolutely nothing to break it up. I hate restaurants with this type of design, but for a tiki bar, which is all about escapism, it was particularly egregious. The music playing, when it could be heard, is Top 40 pop. Backstreet Boys. Justin Bieber. There is multicolored lighting throughout. The bar had thatch above it, which is pretty much standard for even faux tiki bars. The most striking element in the place are skull columns. The two structural support columns in the middle of the floor space have barrels (rum barrels?) at the base, with the upper portion wrapped in resin skulls. That's it for the decor. There are colored ball lights hanging from the ceiling, but there's no netting, so they're not even pretending to be float lamps. I am not exaggerating when I say I could strip all "exotic" decor from the place in under an hour to convert it to a generic Austin bar. Let me make it clear: There was not a single tiki in the entire "tiki bar."

The cocktails were not terrible, but nothing special. The Mai Tai had the proper flavor profile, (ie not rum and pineapple juice) but the flavors were feeble. The Caribbean 75, a rum-based riff on the French 75, was decent, and a dry change of pace from all the sweet drinks on their menu. Washed Ashore tasted like a generic tiki cocktail and the Beach Bum tasted pretty much like a Port Light, despite having bourbon as the only shared ingredient. I would not consider it a craft cocktail bar, as I saw them using Finest Call syrups. One bartender was free pouring as often as he used jiggers.

The kicker, though, are their "custom" tiki mugs. Look closely. Seem familiar? They are all uglier, cheaper knock-offs of the distinctive mugs produced by 3 Dots and a Dash. There's no branding on the bottoms, so Tiki Farm, Munktiki and Eekum Bookum aren't involved, fortunately. Cheap Chinese knockoffs. The have original swizzle designs, surprisingly enough. I've since heard they tried to copy 3 Dots' swizzles as well, but Royer put a stop to that. Even the name, Lost Lei, sounds suspiciously like Lost Lake. What is it with their obsession with Chicago tiki bars?

Lest I sound entirely negative, our bartender was friendly and attentive for the hour we spent there, and all cocktails were $5 for the opening night party, which seemed fair.

One of the facebook groups I belong to did a big blast about all the knockoff mugs.

I don't get it. Why knock off a mug only to customize it for your own bar? If you're going custom anyway why not do something original?

Sometimes people are so lame.

Agreed. It makes not objective sense. I mean, there are plenty of existing mug designs out there already in public domain that they could've riffed on if they had to have something that would be instantly recognizable to the tiki crowd. Tiki Bob is the obvious one, but there are others. Not that I think they ever gave a rat's ass about what the tiki crowd cared about.

Near as I can figure it, 3 Dots is likely the only tiki bar they'd ever visited, and they utterly fixated on it. The fact that Austin and Chicago are a long distance apart probably convinced them they could get away with it, and nobody would ever notice. That, and clearly they have not an ounce of creativity in their soul.


~Jayme


Lagoon of Mystery
http://www.JaymeBlaschke.com

[ Edited by: Prikli Pear 2019-05-17 10:33 ]

For posterity, here's Lost Lei's response to one concerned bystander that pointed out that maybe, just maybe, their "ceramic cup" designs were perhaps a bit too similar to those used at 3 Dots:

"Ripoff? okay, first of all, the original sculptor of these ceramic drink cups is based in China and is not Darik Maasen who is from the USA. The Lost Lei uses the same company that almost every entity uses to produce 95% of all ceramic cups in the world. Every year, (for our trade secret purpose) this Chinese company produces 500 million mugs for companies like McDonalds, Edible Arrangements, Wal-Mart, Microsoft, etc. Anyone can go to China and hire the same company. Secondly, the design, composition, size, glazing process and details are different! No trademark is infringed upon. Last but not least, we have impeccable evidence showing the stages of our sculpting and molding process made by this Chinese artist. Sorry, but Darick Maasen is not the original sculptor nor is he the creator of Wonder Woman or Darth Vader. Please direct all your inquiries to "

Yeah. This will end well...

On 2019-05-17 12:42, Prikli Pear wrote:
For posterity, here's Lost Lei's response to one concerned bystander that pointed out that maybe, just maybe, their "ceramic cup" designs were perhaps a bit too similar to those used at 3 Dots:

"Ripoff? okay, first of all, the original sculptor of these ceramic drink cups is based in China and is not Darik Maasen who is from the USA. The Lost Lei uses the same company that almost every entity uses to produce 95% of all ceramic cups in the world. Every year, (for our trade secret purpose) this Chinese company produces 500 million mugs for companies like McDonalds, Edible Arrangements, Wal-Mart, Microsoft, etc. Anyone can go to China and hire the same company. Secondly, the design, composition, size, glazing process and details are different! No trademark is infringed upon. Last but not least, we have impeccable evidence showing the stages of our sculpting and molding process made by this Chinese artist. Sorry, but Darick Maasen is not the original sculptor nor is he the creator of Wonder Woman or Darth Vader. Please direct all your inquiries to "

Yeah. This will end well...

Yeah, I saw that as well. Nothing ages quite as well as righteous indignation and gibberish in the face of actual evidence.

PS: I hope lawsuits burn this place to the ground. As a craftsman who's had his art poached more than once, I hope Tiki Farm's lawyers walk away with the deed to this place.

F

Ugh. This place will crash and burn in under a year. That’s so bizarre how closely they are to the Three Dots aesthetic and mugs. Even the banana dolphin (which, I know is not exclusive to 3 Dots or LL, but is highly visible in their garnishes). The interior theming here seems half-baked. A little thatch, some “mood lighting” and, “oooh, what if we had skulls surrounding the support beams!!” Huh?!

Also, I did a "Sassy" thing myself. :wink:

They have stopped selling the mugs.

Here's a statement from the management (there are other comments in the post from them, and others)
https://www.instagram.com/p/BxpxQYnArCO/

We have listened and yes we are new to the tiki world. Our intention is not to offend anyone and in business along the way, you do tread on toe and it may come off as intentional and that’s bad business. We’ve pulled all our sales in store and online. We are working with reputable tiki artist to have them design our future mugs. We hope not to disappoint. As for the tiki decor, Austin’s building code is the most rigorous. All wood work must be fire retardant; hence why it is so difficult to have wood in a commercial environment much less in a basement space where you have multiple tenant above you. Again, please know that this is a costly lesson and we are working very hard to regain your trust by hiring tiki artist. We ask anyone reading this to not spam our yelp and google review account. Ethical or unethical, it sends false information about our guest experience and the repair is time consuming. Please, we ask everyone to refrain from making accusation until we have sort the legal with the respective owners. Again, we will reach out to famous tiki artist to design our future mugs, that’s if they can look past our mistake and want to do business with us. Mahalo!

Well, that's somewhat encouraging.

The sad thing is that this all could've easily been avoided. I know some folks who emailed them early on, well before opening, when they started using screengrabs of Three Dots mugs and such on their website. They ignored those, as far as I can tell. And as much as they realize they really stepped in it, they still don't "get" tiki. I think the most Lost Lei will ever be is a club/bar with a tiki theme.

Folks in Austin really want a tiki bar. I mean, really want one. Has Lost Lei even been a mediocre effort, they'd have had dozens of loyal patrons for life. Tiki Tatsuya and Quiet Village are both backed by folks with deep tiki roots and will be legit, but both have encountered multiple delays and obstacles and there's no telling when or if either will open, despite the investment already made in both. It certainly is maddening.

T

On 2019-05-20 06:46, Prikli Pear wrote:
Well, that's somewhat encouraging.

The sad thing is that this all could've easily been avoided. I know some folks who emailed them early on, well before opening, when they started using screengrabs of Three Dots mugs and such on their website. They ignored those, as far as I can tell. And as much as they realize they really stepped in it, they still don't "get" tiki. I think the most Lost Lei will ever be is a club/bar with a tiki theme.

Folks in Austin really want a tiki bar. I mean, really want one. Has Lost Lei even been a mediocre effort, they'd have had dozens of loyal patrons for life. Tiki Tatsuya and Quiet Village are both backed by folks with deep tiki roots and will be legit, but both have encountered multiple delays and obstacles and there's no telling when or if either will open, despite the investment already made in both. It certainly is maddening.

I wonder how Lost Lei was able to get over the hurdles that have delayed Quite Village & Tiki Tatsuya?

Quiet Village is very specific about the space they want. They need a space of a specific size range with an extant non-food service liquor license. They also have identified areas where they believe a tiki bar will flourish--ie not 6th Street or the Warehouse District, which is mostly a young party crowd. I've talked with them and they've been screwed over on several negotiations. The most recent one I'm aware of had an owner assure them the place had a liquor license, when in truth it wasn't even zoned properly. It's been torture. As for Tiki Tatsu-ya, I'm not as familiar with them, but I understand the delay is a case of their other business ventures demanding more time and attention than expected as opposed to any specific hurdles with their tiki bar itself.

Lost Lei didn't have those issues. They just grabbed an available "cool" bar space as close to 6th Street as possible and set up shop. I'm not sure how much money they put into the place, but the actual investment in tiki decor was minimal.

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