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The new Chinatown hot spot invites the urban, the artsy and the curious.


The address 39 Hotel St. has been home to a series of peepshows, bars and other dives. Now, it’s been reborn as thirtyninehotel. Managing director Gelareh Khoie has turned the second-story space, vacant in recent years, into a comfortable, loftlike bar that’s so low key it’s easy to miss (look for the narrow, black double doors, quietly displaying “39” in gold paint).

Once you find it and climb the steep cement staircase, you’ll find an alternative art space/lounge. “It’s very reminiscent of San Francisco and New York lofts—very urban,” says Khoie. Votive candles give soft light to the faces in the crowd: young and old; collared and grunge; old-timers and new visitors. Bohemian skirts and bulky belts sit next to sport jackets and T-shirts. The dark, moody atmosphere inside differs vastly from the glowing outdoor patio, lit by strings of Christmas lights. From the patrons to the space itself, with its raw brick walls, cloth-covered tables and plastic patio chairs, thrityninehotel is so random, it’s hard to find a common thread—until the music starts.

As the 11 p.m. crowd trickles in, this particular Tuesday night, the New Jass Quartet fills the room with sound. And it’s suddenly obvious, everyone in the room came to hear the mingling of the tenor sax, bass and an acoustic guitar (the fourth musician, on drums, is out of town, lending an easy feel to the otherwise up-tempo band).

Couples cozy up on couches and friends talk story at small tables—drinks in hand from the fully stocked bar. “It’s not a meat market,” Khoie says. Rather, it’s a place to chill and sip on an $8 mini bottle of Zardetto through a blue bendy straw.

Khoie changes the evening entertainment theme nightly, from movie nights on Wednesdays, reggae DJs on Thursdays, a once-monthly fashion show on Friday and ending the week with a high-energy night of dancing on Saturday. If that’s too late for you, thrityninehotel doubles as an art gallery during the day.

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Honolulu Magazine March 2017
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