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Does anyone know about the Kapu-Kai in CA?

Pages: 1 2 3 121 replies

I found this by accident on Ebay, and looks like it was a real wild place.
"Kapu-Kai Tahitian type entertainment restaurant, club and bowling alley, 8874 Foothill Blvd., Cucamonga, California."
I'm a native Californian and I have never heard of this place. Sometimes you wish you could just go back in time to witness these classics.

Oh It Looks Good On You Though!

[ Edited by: Unga Bunga 2012-01-17 11:00 ]
EDIT - Moved from General Tiki to Locating Tiki

[ Edited by: MadDogMike - Moved from General Tiki to Locating Tiki - 2019-10-07 20:27 ]

Man, what a great card. Wish I would have had that for the BOT, where you will find the menu cover and 5 b&w shots on pages 198/199, also a b&W rendering on page 57 upper right corner.
I saw it as a closed down ruin in the mid 90s. It had been turned into a country style roller rink in the 80s and then closed down after a flash flooding from the hills. Only the structural support Tiki posts were left between the lanes. Tried to have the site monitored to get them, but to no avail. Years later someone traded one to Bosko, it now has it's own A-frame altar in his yard.

Save that card for me, U.B.!

...Dinning, Dancing, Bowling - the Kapu Kai had it all!


I used to roller skate there as a kid. I now know why I have tiki in my blood. I was influanced with out knowing it. I did not know, think, or care about tiki when I was in 6th grade but I wish I would have checked it out beter now.

I seem to remember the building facade - but not the name. I'm a native Californian as well, born in Upland- not far from this place. We moved to the beach when I was very young, but my grandparents lived in Cucamonga. Wow- what a great flashback!


Yes, I remember the old Kapu Kai Restaurant and Bowling Alley, corner of Route 66 (Foothill Blvd) and Vineyard Avenue in Cucamonga, CA. Cucamonga is roughly 40-miles east of Los Angeles.

"Kapu Kai" supposedly means "Forbidden Seas."

I've also seen it defined: "Kapu kai ... ceremonial bath when in the sea or in other sea or salt water... done to purify oneself after evil or defilement, physical or spiritual and to remove the kapu (taboo) under which the person usually came because of his/her defilement."

My father used to bowl at Kapu Kai and our family ate at the restaurant (on occasion) during the 1960s. I was a young child (well under 10) at the time.

The Kapu Kai was (unfortunately) located adjacent to a flood-control channel and was destroyed during the winter of 1968/1969 by terrible floods (worst local flooding since 1938.) It subsequently remained abandoned for years. During the later 1970s/early 1980s the location re-emerged as "Roller-City" a roller-skating rink.

Roller-City ended as well and the property was (once again) abandoned. Eventually the property was bulldozed and it is now (since the year 2000 or so) an Albertson's Supermarket within a typical mini-mall.

I found photos of this Kapu Kai postcard, matchbook cover and a three-face bucket mug online.

Would like to know more about it too as I was too young to remember much about it when it was open. I vaguely remember the "Tahitian Flame Room" which I believe was the cocktail lounge portion of the facility, the restaurant and bowling-lanes.

[ Edited by: Derek C 2007-02-01 10:26 ]


My father and his partners were owners of the Kapu Kai. The Kapu Kai was flooded twice. Nobody would think to have flood insurance in the middle of the desert, and when the first flood happened, the owners mortgaged their homes to bail it out. The second flood "broke the camels back" and it was left in ruins.

Unfortunately I don't have any of the memorabilia, but I know that highball tumblers, ashtrays and a few other trinkets still exist. I was only seven when all this happened, so most of what I know was related to me. I'm guessing that my mother or step mom have all the goodies and all the pictures of the place before and after the floods.

Before my father passed away we got him to make his kapu Kai salad dressing while we wrote down the recipe. Sadly this seems to be misplaced in our house but if I find it and if anyone is still reading this thread, I'll post it up. I haven't made in in a long time because it contains MSG (who cared about that back then?)but I am hoping to create a reasonable facsimile with healthier ingredients.


Sounds great! Keep those memories alive. Anything you can dig up or relate to folks here will be fantastic. Thanks for posting.


Welcome to Tiki Central Colin! We are all very interested in any information, pictures, stories, etc that you may have on the Kapu-Kai. As has happened a number of times before, decendants of those who once owned or worked in long-gone tiki establishments have discovered Tiki Central and shared information with us about these places that they get from their families. If you can dig anything up, we'd love to hear it!

Click here for a prime example of how this has happened before. Hopefully this will inspire you to do a little digging! :)


Kapu Kai Son

Wow, people like you are sought after on this forum. Someone whose parent or relative owned one of the many great, but extinct Tiki establishments. It's so great that you signed up. How did you find the forum ?

So, any photos/memorabelia you have, We'd love to see them. Also, that salad dressing recipe....post that too.

Also. Do you have any information on the architects who built it ?

Anyway, the Kapu Kai sure looks like Polynesian Pop at it's finest.

[ Edited by: tikiyaki 2007-12-16 08:05 ]

We're having dinner at my mom's house next weekend and I'll see what she has. I e-mailed her the photos and she was quite surprised to see them. She replied that she doesn't have any memorabilia but she does have photos of the damage after the floods.

I found this site on a whim. I typed in Kapu Kai and what a surprise!


Here are some photos of the damage done by the flood Sorry for the large picture size!

My brother and I (I have the red boots)

This used to be a road

Looking at the front of the building

The back entrance under 8' of mud and sand

The nightclub

More of the nightclub

The Dining Room

The Bowling Lanes

All and all a pretty sad ending for the place.


Dear Kapu Kai Son
Wow, I am really sorry about all the damage. It is great that you shared your family pictures with us.
Thank You!


Whoa....Sad indeed. The flood damage is really exemplified by the shot of the bowling lanes...floating pins and balls everywhere. Man, that is sad.

What a great place this was.

[ Edited by: tikiyaki 2007-12-31 20:21 ]


My heart stopped looking at those pictures, and then I got chills....Amazing how bad the storm hit the place....Those pictures sum it all up, in a very unwanted way...Welcome to TC,and thanks for sharing!

Aloha Kapu Kai son, this one is for you. I am sorry it took me a while to pull all these materials together, and I hope you will dial in here again and see them. Your family's fate moved me, what a loss, I hope you all eventually recovered.

I am an urban archaeologist and author specializing in Tiki culture, and have been fascinated by the Kapu Kai since the beginning of my research in the early 90s. Luckily I found Oceanic Arts in Whittier, the company who outfitted the Kapu Kai. They told me about the K.K.'s fate. I even dug up Milan Guanko, the carver of the Tiki statues, and talked to him before he passed away.

I must assume that you do not have my "Book of Tiki" (BOT) that I mention above, unfortunately it has been out of print for a while, so I am posting some pictures from it here also. First, a yellow pages ad:

Here are two pages from a flier, I only have them as pdf's, so I photographed them from my laptop screen:

I did get a better shot of the architectural rendering of the front, but this side view is also very interesting:

Here is the better version of the front:

When I came upon it in 1992 it had been a "Country"-themed roller rink before it closed down. Here are two visiting German friends of mine in front of it:

The side entrance:

It was all boarded up then, but two years later me and some friends mounted a successful expedition that pushed into the inner sanctum. Among its members were L.A. Mod-Comers John English, Chris Nichols (now L.A. Magazine editor and author of "The Leisure Architecture of Wayne McAllister") and Jeff Berry, authority on and author of several books about Polynesian cocktail archeology:

There was nothing salvageable left by then...EXCEPT the gorgeous Milan Guanko Tikis that were serving as support posts between the bowling lanes!:

These could not be removed and had survived all the natural and stylistic catastrophes the place had endured over the years. Of course we tried to monitor the site to save them, but one day it was all gone. By sheer coincidence, my friend and Tiki carver Bosko ended up with one and built an A-frame shrine around it. (can someone post a pic, please?)

One of my favorite ephemera from the Kapu Kai was its menu cover:

...which design was used for other objects like matchbooks and glasses:

Here is a shot of the awesome sign:

...and the cool concrete screen that was used around the whole building:

I am assuming that THIS was the "Tahitian Fire":

Here is the main entrance with its amazing Guanko carvings:

..and the bowling alley counter, with some of the Tiki posts in the far background:

What is hard to see in the above photo, (and got covered with tons of mud later!) can be better appreciated in THIS one:

For me as a Tiki archaeologist it is always a thrill to find a so far unseen use of the Tiki image. The Kapu Kai is the only place to my knowledge that used TIKI CARPETING !:

A minor aspect to most, but a find for me. :)

Kapu Kai Son, I hope you will enjoy these images, and if you dig up any more photos from before your dad's place was hit by disaster, we would love to see them.



Awesome pics ! Along with the also now defunct Tahitian Lanai in Waikiki, his has to be one of the coolest MCM/TIKI establishments I think I've seen...and a bowling alley too....don't even get me started on Mid Century Bowling culture.....geez...that's like the best combination since chocolate and peanut butter.


[ Edited by: tikiyaki 2008-01-06 11:25 ]

What an amazing thread! Thanks to both Kapu Kai Son and Sven for sharing their photos and knowledge.

When I first saw photos of the Kapu Kai, I would have guessed it was a Pat DeRosa design. But I notice in one of Sven's images that the architects are "Talley (something) & Associates." Can you read the rest of the name on the original image, Sven?

All these years later, my heart really goes out to your family, Kapu Kai Son. The Kapu Kai was clearly a real beauty. I hope you were all able to bounce back from this and find success somewhere else.



On 2008-01-06 13:16, SpaceAgeCity wrote:
What an amazing thread! Thanks to both Kapu Kai Son and Sven for sharing their photos and knowledge.


A moving thread indeed, got me all teary eyed. To Kapu Kai Son, what a legacy, one to be proud of most definitely, hope to hear more from you in the future. Thanks Sven for all the great information as always. :cry:

Thanks guys! I hope the son checks back in. Chris, I think it says Talley-SUEYARA Associates.

Thanks, Sven. That's a new one on me. Next time you're in O.C., let me know -- We'll have lunch someplace better than the La Palma Chicken Pie Shop. :)


Will do. Chris, what is the latest status on Hobby City and the Doll Museum, do you know?

Aloha all,

I'm Colin's mom. The reason we didn't have any photos of the place is like, when you're in the middle of the ocean, who knows you're surrounded by water....

I stayed home caring for my two sons, while my husband drove 50 miles from La Crescenta to Cucamonga to work. We visited occasionally but never took photos until after the disaster.

I remember him saying the City of Upland diverted the natural flow of the river into a right-angle bend, allowing homes and this bowling alley to be built in the dry riverbed. It had been dry for over 30 years! Who would dream that the flash floods of 1968 would send boulders crashing down on Kapu Kai, smashing the 6" thick koa doors and tearing up all the heavy bowling seats? I never went back to see the damage but was told the water was over 5' and left 3' of mud in the lanes.

My ex and his partners tried to sue the City of Upland to no avail and we ended up losing everything and moved back to Honolulu a year later.

With the help of family and friends, we put our lives back and my boys are now successful in their careers. We morn the loss but are grateful that none that we knew were injured in the flashflood of '68....but it changed our lives forever....

P.S. I've enclosed my photo because I think it's neat to see who you're talking to.

awesome photos and a sad tale of the kapu kai....now known as the ka-put kai.

Oh good. I am glad that you and your son got to see the images, and thank you for your additional info and the lovely picture. As I said, my first book that has some of these images in it is out of print, but my new one, called "Tiki Modern", has the color postcard that started this thread, and a color photo of it "after" on page 267, if any of you are interested.
Glad you are all doing well, Best Wishes, Sven Kirsten

Aloha Sevin,

So what's the name of your book and where can we find it?

It is called TIKI MODERN
author: Sven A. Kirsten
publisher: Taschen

...the easiest, cheapest, everywhere available source is Amazon.com

What a great thread, informative, educational, well narrated and illustrated. Bonus points for the former relatives of the owners participating.

Interesting to see the demise of a once thriving and tikified establishment fall to the powers of nature instead of a decline in popularity. Recently we had the same reaction from our neighbors to the east in Fernley, Nevada who thought the same thing; flood insurance in the high desert?? An entire town devastated by a flood in the high desert last Friday.

What a great place the Kapu Kai was. I can't wait until they event a reliable time machine.

Psycho Tiki D (I know I am and time travel can't be too far off)!

On 2008-01-05 20:54, bigbrotiki wrote:
Aloha Kapu Kai son, this one is for you. I am sorry it took me a while to pull all these materials together, and I hope you will dial in here again and see them. Your family's fate moved me, what a loss, I hope you all eventually recovered.

Does anyone really "dial in" anymore? Seriously, thank you so much for posting these photos. May I have your permission to use them (with due credit of course) on my website? I may in the future devote a page to the story of the Kapu Kai and these would certainly help tell the story. Heck, I may even put together a mini documentary to tell the tale.

My brother and I are starting the process of digitizing these old family photos. We each have a photo album and are working through the pic as we have time. Not to belabor the point, I turned a new page and found a few more pics.

This is the only one I've found before the floodm and it shows a dinner party in the dining room:

And then a few more of the office:

And the kitchen

Thanks to all and still working on recreating that old salad dressing recipe.....I can't find the written recipe, so we're going to try it from memory.

[ Edited by: kapu_kai_son 2008-01-12 14:41 ]


What a great thread! Thank you bigbrotiki, Kapukaison, and welcome dancingcat. The pictures and history are great.

Hi all. We messed around with the salad dressing and think we've hit the right combo of ingredients. My dad was the only one to make this dressing and he never wrote it down. Once, a long time ago, my wife made it with him and jotted some notes down that are now long lost. As far as we can tell, this was the house dressing in the dining room at the Kapu Kai so give it a try.

1 Clove garlic
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 tsp garlic salt
1 pinch Ajinomoto (Mono Sodium Glutamate)
1/2 cup vegetable oil

In the old days, my dad would throw the garlic in the blender and it would get chopped up when everything combined. Today, I put the garlic through a garlic press first. Combine all the ingredients except the oil in a blender. Pulse to puree the garlic. Finally, drizzle in the oil to make the dressing.

Couple of notes: When I say a pinch of MSG I really mean it. We're talking less than 1/8 of a teaspoon here. Nothing can replace or replicate the sweet/sour/salty taste of MSG so if a little doesn't bother you, try it this way first. If you are sensitive to this, replace the pinch of MSG with 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of kosher salt.

There you have it! This recipe has never been written down before and many people used to tell my dad he should bottle it and sell it. He always refused because of the MSG. If someone starts making a million bucks on Kapu Kai salad dressing, I want my cut!

By the way, please feel free to use the photos and material. Please give credit to Oceanic Arts, too, for the vintage pics.

Thank you all for sharing your photos and comments on the Kapu-Kai. I really enjoy the history and architecture of the old tiki establishments. Being a former avid bowler it made Kapu-Kai story more interesting. There are not a lot of old tiki restaurants/bars I can remember in nor-cal I envy the history of so-cal tiki .

This thread is incredible, I am very touched by the story, and encouraged that in tragedy, the strong survive, what a lovely note from Dancingcat. Thank you all for sharing. I remember that terrible flood but I did not know of the Kapu-Kai story, I remember seeing pictures on the TV.

Thanks everybody and thanks to Sven for allowing me to use his images. Sven, I saw your page on IMDB, when you you making a movie to combine your 'work' with your "hobby?"

Also, this makes me wonder if there isn't more information out there on some 'defunct bowling alley' forum somewhere?

On 2008-01-17 10:24, kapu_kai_son wrote:
Sven, I saw your page on IMDB, when you you making a movie to combine your 'work' with your "hobby?"

Here is a recent example of how I combine my work with my hobby of urban archeology:


Sharing my personal impressions with the TC Ohana helped me to distance myself from the insane stress of a film set.

I also use the decades of experience I gained in lighting film sets to light Tiki objects and Tiki temple interiors as glamorous as possible.


Does anyone have detailed pics of the front of the Kapu-Kai?

I ran across this thread while researching photos for a Tiki themed diorama myself and a buddy of mine are just now starting. I'm seriously thinking of incorporating the style of the Kapu-Kai in one of the buildings. This is an incredible story and I want to see what we can do with it.

Small world -I found out that the former location of the Kapu-Kai is now an Albertson's market. What blew me away is that my brother lives kind of across the street. We were in that Albertson's not too long ago.

Thanx everyone, especially to kapu-kai-son and his family.


David Allen made a nice post about Kapu Kai on his Daily Bulletin blog (check out the comments)

On 2008-01-28 18:24, Buckdog wrote:
Does anyone have detailed pics of the front of the Kapu-Kai?

Small world -I found out that the former location of the Kapu-Kai is now an Albertson's market. What blew me away is that my brother lives kind of across the street. We were in that Albertson's not too long ago.

Thanx everyone, especially to kapu-kai-son and his family.

I don't think that there are too many pics of the exterior that aren't posted here. However, I just got off the phone with my stepmom and she has some pics that I may not have already. She's in NC so she's mailing what she has to me.

I wonder if your brother would mind taking a photo from a similar camera angle to some of the pics posted here? This would be a neat look at "then and now" for that location.


Kapu - thanx for replying.
I'll see what we can do. Maybe I can run up there Sunday and take a few shots. I dont think there is much left to landmark from. The Kapu-Kai's address marks for the Albertson's market but I think there is an old winery house across the street. That house has been designated a historical landmark. If you remember the winery house where was it's physical relation to the Kapu-Kai?

On 2008-03-13 20:54, Buckdog wrote:
Kapu - thanx for replying.
I'll see what we can do. Maybe I can run up there Sunday and take a few shots. I dont think there is much left to landmark from. The Kapu-Kai's address marks for the Albertson's market but I think there is an old winery house across the street. That house has been designated a historical landmark. If you remember the winery house where was it's physical relation to the Kapu-Kai?

I think you're right about the landmarks, it was just a thought in passing. I believe the winery was across the street but I'm not sure. Hopefully one day I'll get back there myself. I'm sure if we could find someone old enough at the winery they would remember. Thanks for the reply though.

My step Mom sent me a few photos she found with my dads old things. These photos are little pics that I've enlarged a bit, so the detail isn't as good as the earlier pics.

Little pics for you keep in your wallet..... awwww such a touching gesture



Went to visit my bro today - got pics of the old sites. Will post tomorrow. By the way the winery house is up for lease - again. There have been more businesses trying to eek out a living in that place than I can remember. The house is now surrounded by a bank, gas station and other stuff.

I'm cringing at the shot of the Kapu-Kai flooded. I've never been there and it hurts just looking at them.

[ Edited by: Buckdog 2008-03-16 20:02 ]

[ Edited by: Buckdog 2008-03-16 20:06 ]


Here are location pics of where the Kapu-Kai used to be.
The Albertsons and a bunch of other smaller stores take up the entire location. There is no hint or landmark of any kind that there was a restaurant there before. Only the mountains give a reference.You can see the Starbucks right on the corner of Vineyard and Foothill.

The winery house is still across the street and up for lease - again. By looking at it you would never know that all the land around the house used to belong to it.

[ Edited by: Buckdog 2008-03-17 20:44 ]

Thanks a lot! Sorry I've been away from the site for a few days.


From San Simeon up North to San Diego down South, from the Ocean to the desert to the mountains, that could be ANY corner in ANY town, now.


Hello Colin and everyone at Tikicentral.

I've lived here in Rancho Cucamonga my entire life (since 1960.)

Actually, the "Winery House" South of Kapu Kai site (discused/pictured earlier,) located directly across Foothill Blvd south of Kapu Kai, was/is the "John Klusman House."

Klusman was a local builder and concrete-contractor back in the late 1890s - 1930's or so,) and was a partner/minor owner of the Virginia Dare Winery. The Virginia Dare Winery is located 3-miles East of Kapu Kai, at Haven Avenue and Foothill.


The former Winery directly across the street (Vineyard Avenue) East of the old Kapu Kai, is the "Thomas Brothers Vintners" winery, which Klusman Did not own.


The oldest house in the area (The Rains Adobe, built in 1860 by/for John Rains, the one-time owner of ALL of the lands known as "Rancho Cucamonga") is within short walking distance to the North of old Kapu Kai on Vineyard Avenue.

Also, the Old Sycamore Inn (since 1848, which Klusman built the current structure for in 1920) is around a mile-West of Old Kapu Kai.

Here is a brief history of the area:


Thanks Again, and really miss the old Kapu Kai.
Derek C.

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