Trader Vic's: Campaigners Rally To Have 1960s Tiki Bar Listed Before It Gets Ripped Out

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 17 months ago

Last Updated 19 December 2022

Trader Vic's: Campaigners Rally To Have 1960s Tiki Bar Listed Before It Gets Ripped Out
A bamboo-forward drinking den with huge bamboo beams
Trader Vic's has been a part of the Hilton Park Lane since the hotel opened, in 1963. Image: Trader Vic's

Mai Tai lovers were left drowning their sorrows at the end of November, with the news that tiki bar/restaurant Trader Vic's — an eccentric fixture of the Hilton Park Lane since 1963 — was being forced to close at the end of 2022, ahead of Hilton ripping out the historic interior.

But the Polynesian-themed venue — said to be the original 'open kitchen' concept in London — is not going without a fight. Campaigners — including Professor Deborah Sugg Ryan, Professor of Design History at University of Portsmouth; and The Bidding Room presenter, Estelle Bilson — have now filed a listing application with Historic England, in a bid to save the bamboo-framed interior, replete with wood carvings, Chinese jade tiles, Japanese and Korean glass floats and South Pacific fish traps.

A set of tiki cocktails
The place is a Mai Tai mecca. Image: iStock/bhofack2.

Trader Vic's — which takes its name from entrepreneur Victor J Bergeron, who also invented the Mai Tai —  really is a slice of modern UK history, as campaigner Sue Wright tells us:

It is not only the longest continuously running restaurant in the worldwide chain but is also London's oldest example of the Polynesian Pop phenomenon of the tiki bar and restaurant. It incorporates authentic cultural artefacts and especially commissioned designs from Polynesian artists. Its unique interior scheme was designed by San Francisco-based architects Chan/Rader Associates who were known for restaurants, hotels, shopping malls, civic centres and housing in countries in five continents, including the Hawaii State Capitol Building. I believe that its remarkably intact interior, little changed since it opened in 1963, is worthy of listing as an early example of a themed restaurant that goes beyond pastiche.

6,700 signatures have so far been gathered in a petition to save the venue, and once you've added your name to that, why not get yourself in for a drink/bite to eat. There's a Save Trader Vic's event at the venue tonight (19 December), where you can show your support by getting squiffy on Pinky Gonzalezes with likeminded folk — otherwise, the venue's in business till at least 31 December.

A flyer for the Save Trader Vic's event

Londonist contacted Hilton on the news of the imminent closure, but have not yet heard back.

In other heritage news, staff and customers of Simpson's Tavern — a historical chophouse near Bank — continue to fight to reopen the venue, in spite of their landlord, which forced its immediate closure in October. There's been a break-through — with Simpson's securing 'asset of community value' status, meaning the local community now has first dibs on bidding on the building, before it is sold to anyone else.