A Shockoe Bottom bar and restaurant known for its 10-cent tacos, seaside decorations and ability for swarming men to inappropriately grab women without any repercussion whatsoever is getting a makeover.
Tiki Bob’s Cantina, in an effort to continue growing its customer base, is adding Skee-Ball, climbing equipment and animatronic animal characters that will sing fun sing-a-long songs for clientele.
“Don’t get me wrong. Having two barely-legal young women wrestle in a kiddie pool of chocolate pudding every Tuesday night is great fun for all,” said Tiki Bob’s president Robert “Bob” D’Angelo, a stocky man in a pinstripe suit with a gold ring around his pinkie and ear-length, slicked back, graying hair. “Yet in order to keep attracting the type of high-quality end-user of whom we desire, we must to continue to innovate our product.
“Hence the singing mouse, chicken and hound dog, and hamster-like but human-sized colorful climbing tubes for patrons,” said D’Angelo, who smells of Aqua Velva Ice Blue-brand aftershave.
D’Angelo also said the age-18-and-up firm’s research shows that its customers enjoy bright flashing lights, pretty colors and pizza parties that include those cone-shaped hats for attendees.
In addition, Tiki’s is hiring someone to wear a gray mouse costume to walk around, shake hands, and take pictures with bargoers. The company also plans to expand its adjacent parking lot so that moms can have more room to safely pick up their children once parties are over, typically around 2 a.m.
“Bikini night is a lot of fun, like, I love bringing Cindy down here and she be shakin’ her thang an’ whatnot, know what I saying?” frequent Tiki’s customer Kyle Fredericks said of the bar’s revamping. The 21-year-old hails from Charles City County and is a self-employed chemist, mixing substances such as Vick’s nasal inhaler, drain cleaner and rubbing alcohol and selling his concoctions for $100 to $120 per gram, depending on market price. “Get my drink on, shorty, fuggin’, Soulja Boy ya’ heard.”
Restaurant industry analysts say the move by Tiki Bob’s should keep it nipping at the heels of its foremost competitor, the nearby Have a Nice Day Cafe on South 18th Street.
Several years ago, “Have a Nice Day” – as its exclusive, cultured crowd refers to what they fervently consider a trendy nightclub – painted a mural of a giant, yellow smiley face on its northeast corner wall in an effort to attract new patrons.
“And it worked,” said Jordan Gale, a retail analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in New York. “Have a Nice Day found that it can catch the eyes of many customers who pass by that cheery art in the passenger seat of their friends’ cars on the way to the nearest GED testing center – or in their own customized Honda Civics that have over-sized spoilers.”
“If a station wagon, we find that Have a Nice Day customers also really enjoy that seat that faces backward so they can make funny faces, like the smiley, at closely-following vehicles,” Gale added.
Yet Have a Nice Day and Tiki’s aren’t the only area evening hotspots to realize they had to reinvent themselves or face losing business to rivals.
To keep residents of the West End from having to travel downtown to Tiki’s or Have a Nice Day, Bahama Joe’s was established years ago to give its bargoers of the upper echelon the impression of a beach bar in the Caribbean Sea – despite its upscale location down the street from an Amtrak station and a Dunkin’ Donuts.
Joe’s has since added a brightly-colored party bus since most patrons are accustomed to such vehicles, Gale said, “typically due to a driving-record flaw – probably a DUI, probably received after a previous trip to Bahama Joe’s – that has revoked their license.”
When asked what he thought of the changes at Tiki’s, recent Virginia Commonwealth University graduate Ethan Kramer denied having ever stepped foot inside of the establishment.
“Okay, maybe once. It was their 10-cent taco and 25-cent beer night – and I just went along with friends,” said Kramer, a research analyst at a downtown investment bank. “I was so drunk afterward and swore I’d never go back, and I haven’t.
“Besides, that place is like a Chuck E. Cheese’s for adults.”