Partners Plan Tiki Bar Downtown

TikiCat interior

A trio of partners are planning a tiki-themed getaway in Grand Rapids.

Mark Sellers, owner of Grand Rapids-based BarFly Ventures, is partnering with Martin Cate, a James Beard-winning author, bar owner and cocktail expert from San Francisco, and Gecko, a Hawaii-based tiki and Polynesian artist, to open Max’s South Seas Hideaway, a three-story tiki bar and boutique lodging spot downtown.

The tiki bar portion is scheduled to open this August in the historic Waldron Building, at 58 Ionia Ave. SW.

“The level of talent working together to create this oasis will put Grand Rapids on the map for tiki enthusiasts around the world,” Sellers said. “More importantly, Max’s will serve as a unique and unforgettable getaway for people in West Michigan looking to escape reality – even if only for a few hours.”

Cate is the author of “Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki” and the creator of Smuggler’s Cove, a San Francisco tiki bar named in “The World’s 50 Best Bars” list six years in a row. He will train managers and bartenders in the proper technique for executing tiki cocktails.

“We’re bringing an entirely new drinking and dining experience to Grand Rapids that we think will stand alongside the best tiki bars in the world,” Cate said.

The menu will feature Asian, Hawaiian and American cuisine by Chef Rick Medcalf.

Sellers collaborated with Cate to open TikiCat, named “Best Tiki Bar in the World” by the users of in 2017, in the basement of HopCat Kansas City.

The 18,475-square-foot Waldron Building will house the tiki bar on the first and second floors. Seven tiki-themed AirBnB-style apartments will be housed on the third floor. Pending city approval, the units are expected to be completed by early 2020, with online reservations starting in the fall.

The roughly $2.5-million build out will feature various elements: custom interior design work by Bamboo Ben, Tiki Diablo and Notch Gonzalez; a large portion of Sellers’ personal collection of mid-century tiki art; a 500-gallon saltwater aquarium with tropical fish; and a ceramic studio where local and national artists will design and create limited-edition ceramic mugs and bowls to be sold at Max’s and on its website.

Max’s South Seas Hideaway will be owned and operated separately from BarFly Ventures.

The company is hiring for management positions online.

Photo: TikiCat in Kansas City, Missouri. Courtesy BarFly Ventures.

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