Olivia Griffin and partner Rick Quisol | Courtesy of Olivia Griffin

Louisville has its fair share of bourbon lounges, sports bars and neighborhood watering holes, but what it’s lacking, says Mysterious Rack‘s owner, Olivia Griffin, is a tiki bar.

Griffin recently signed a lease on the space at 411 W. Chestnut St. — near the corner of South Fourth Street and less than a block away from her hat shop and boutique — and plans to open up the bar by the end of the year. The business owner spent her early adult years in San Francisco and has always wanted to bring the tiki-bar concept to Louisville, where she believes it will thrive with the right team of artists and bartenders.

“I am going to create a ‘tik-easy,’ a clean, modern version of a tiki bar,” Griffin tells Insider. “By incorporating local artists, bartenders, musicians and performers into my bar, I hope to create a friendly and familiar respite for locals and give them a new reason to come back downtown.”

Olivia Griffin opened the Mysterious Rack in 2015. | Photo by Mary Helen Nunn

Griffin, who serves on the board of the South Fourth Street District Association, mentions famous San Fran tiki bars like the Smuggler’s Cove, Forbidden Island and Trader Vic’s as her inspirations, and she wants her beach-y bar environment to be transcending.

“There’s something magical about tiki bars, in particular, because when you walk in, you feel transported to another place and time — not quite identifiable but lovely and exotic,” she says. “My place will be mysterious, lush and full of the interesting characters that keep Louisville weird.”

Griffin will still be involved at the Mysterious Rack and says she has a great team that takes care of the day-to-day management. She also hopes to arrange a similar self-sufficient team for the tiki bar and is currently looking for lead bartenders. She’s also working with local consultants in the bar industry, as well as some industry folks she knew in San Francisco.

“My experience lies in the event side of running a club, but I feel confident in my consultants and in the potential that the superior bar staff of Louisville can contribute once I start hiring,” she says.

Since moving to Louisville and opening up her boutique in 2015, Griffin helped create a monthly burlesque and live music series called “Prohibition Parlour,” which takes place at Taj Louisville. So, she has proof, she says, that the Louisville bar-going crowd enjoys a good theme, spectacle and dressing up.

The cocktails will be king, of course, with inventive versions of classic Polynesian drinks, but music also will be just as important. The resident band — a Hawaiian/exotica hybrid called The Bluegrass Shack Boys — will include local talent led by Griffin’s husband, Rick Quisol, (of the Derby City Dandies), and a Hawaiian steel guitar player from Cincinnati.

Tiki drinks are often served in interesting glassware.

Griffin did not disclose the name of the bar, but says she is working with Louisville artist Kathleen Lolley on the design and logo. The plan is to be open by the end of the year, and construct a patio in the spring, says Griffin.

And the bar will not serve food right away, but she’s looking into renting out the kitchen or partnering with a food truck.

Louisville has had a few short-lived tiki bars over the years, including The Luau Room at the airport, the Bahama Breeze chain concept near the Oxmoor Mall, and some might even consider the ambiance and drinks of El Camino to fit the theme.

Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville. She's known around town as the Bar Belle and updates her blog (barbelleblog.com) daily. She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."


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