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There’s a New Co-Working Space in Chinatown

The old Encore Saloon Building is a new space for entrepreneurs and small companies.


Photos: David Croxford


Cameron McElroy pauses to check out the renovated saloon.

Inside Chinatown’s cavernous and occasionally scandalous Encore Saloon Building, a new collaborative work-play space is emerging from the dust of the ages at the corner of North Hotel Street and Nu‘uanu Avenue.


Built in 1886, the Encore Saloon was one of the few buildings to survive both of the Chinatown fires that devastated the neighborhood. More than a century later, it became The Space Formerly Known As: the Won Kwok Noodle House, Club Ke Kai, Hana Hou, Gold Gate Lounge and the Green Door Café.


Now, new leaseholders are peeling away the grime and renovations of the past to repurpose the historic property as a place for entrepreneurs, businesspeople and creative types to thrive in the downtown/Chinatown community.


Real Office Centers began construction in January 2014, but the process of building permits and cleanup proved to be a bigger challenge than it imagined.


“We filled 16 commercial dumpsters with all the stuff that was back here that had to be cleaned out,” says ROC sales and operations manager Cameron McElroy. “During construction, dozens of baggies filled with drugs fell out of some of the walls, hidden from decades ago. All kinds of stuff.”

A historical photo shows the saloon, as it once appeared. 

Local historians report that, during renovations in 1980, workers discovered hidden passageways believed to be used to hide sailors who were drugged, shanghaied and would awaken at sea.


A mysterious jar of preserved snakes turned up during renovations.

This new chapter begins with ROC providing an open-source co-working space for entrepreneurs and small companies looking to grow in a collaborative environment. The renovated 15,000- square-foot complex features 17 private offices (15 available to rent), an open-air courtyard and ground-floor storefront properties, with office and mail service.


“By operating from a shared space, companies can quickly set up and get to work,” says McElroy. “Startups can just focus on what they need to do for their businesses and we can help take care of the rest.”


In February 2015, ROC formally opened its doors to the public, with upstairs and ground-floor properties available for rent. There are plans to open restaurants and bars in the six ground-floor locations; so far, Kaka‘ako favorite Cocina and Alan Wong have both expressed interest in the space.


One thing’s for sure: If Encore Saloon’s future is anything like its past, the next chapter should prove interesting.


2 N. Hotel St., (949)-629-2500, realofficecenters.com/location/chinatown


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Honolulu Magazine March 2018
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