Grass Skirt Becomes New Home for Kahiki’s George The Monkey
A historical tiki sculpture is once again up for public display outside the Grass Skirt Tiki Room.
Meet George the Monkey — originally built and designed for the Polynesian eatery Kahiki (RIP: 1961- 2000) located in East Columbus, George was acquired in an auction along with other items from the grandly decorated restaurant by the nonprofit organization, the Fraternal Order of Moai at $3,600.
Matt “Kuku Ahu” Thatcher, founder and past president of Fraternal Order of Moai said the purpose was to keep George from a private collection.
“Having it on public display was important to us,” said Thatcher. “We want to have it in a tiki environment like the way it was, so bringing it here makes sense.”
Architect Coburn Morgan, who was responsible for the decorations of the Kahiki, built George. After the restaurant was torn down, many large items wound up rotting away in fields, though some relocated to the Columbus Zoo, according to Thatcher. George is the last major piece that the Fraternal Order of Moai tried to save and preserve from that part of Columbus history.
Although the legendary Kahiki restaurant closed nearly fifteen years ago, the impact it has on Columbus remains.
“A lot of people in the U.S. grew up with these places and as a kid you don’t necessarily know what it means but it makes a deep impression on you,” said Thatcher, “Once The Kahiki was erased, suddenly, something just flipped in me.”
Built for $1 million, The Kahiki was known for its exotic, grand indoor décor with George the Monkey in the entranceway with a built-in fountain.
“Customers had their pictures taken with George everyday, so keeping him in a tiki bar where people can continue do that was important to us.” Said Thatcher.
Co-owner of The Grass Skirt Tiki Room, Carmen Owens said the relationship with Fraternal Order of Moai helped to keep the authenticity of the Tiki culture, which is known for taking rum-based cocktails seriously.
“We really love developing our restaurant concepts,” said Owens. “We have been working with the Order since before Grass Skirt opened.”
As the final installation of George is still in process, The Grass Skirt Tiki Room is hosting a fundraising event “Hot Rod Hula Hop” on August 8th and 9th to celebrate — featuring a vintage car, motorcycle and scooter show with cocktails and live music.
For tickets and details, visit www.fraternalorderofmoai.org.
All photos by Sally Wenxin Xia.