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Tiki Central Forums » » General Tiki » » Save Luau Room in Louisville, KY
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Save Luau Room in Louisville, KY
Dustycajun
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 16, 2007
Posts: 5093
From: Santa Barbara, CA
Posted: 2010-03-24 4:39 pm   Permalink

Swanky,

Nice score on the menu and Mai Tai glasses. I am assuming you got the ones that Uncle Trav posted earlier.

Does the menu have any reference to Dobbs?

DC


 
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Dustycajun
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 16, 2007
Posts: 5093
From: Santa Barbara, CA
Posted: 2010-08-29 08:38 am   Permalink

Here is a photo of the interior of the Luau Room from a menu I saw on ebay a while back.





DC


 
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tikijoeandthebambooband
Member

Joined: Jun 17, 2011
Posts: 9
Posted: 2011-07-02 10:53 am   Permalink

anything new happening here?

 
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Dustycajun
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 16, 2007
Posts: 5093
From: Santa Barbara, CA
Posted: 2012-09-24 4:08 pm   Permalink

Picked up a menu from the Luau Room on 4th.








It also came with one of the flyers with the interior photo





And a letter announcing the move to 4th Street from Standiford Field.



DC


 
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BambooRadley
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Mar 18, 2013
Posts: 28
Posted: 2013-03-20 7:05 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2010-08-29 08:38, Dustycajun wrote:
Here is a photo of the interior of the Luau Room from a menu I saw on ebay a while back.





DC



Spent my youth here...nothing says Mid-Century like a Tiki Restaurant at the Airport.
Boo


 
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Betty Boop
Member

Joined: Nov 03, 2014
Posts: 1
From: Louisville, KY
Posted: 2014-11-03 08:14 am   Permalink

Just to set the record straight...The Luau Room was definitely owned and operated by Dobbs House Inc.the home offices were in Memphis TN.
In the early 70's I knew John Shanchuk when he was the General Manager of the Luau Room, I was (at the same time) the General Manager of another of Dobbs theme restaurant in Louisville.
FYI:
The Luau was Memphis' answer to the Polynesian-themed restaurant craze of the 1960s. In 1959, Dobbs house transformed an older restaurant at this location into the Luau, where diners walked past a 12 foot Tiki God at the entrance and then entered a lush tropical paradise with tables framed by palm fronds. It was extremely popular. The postcard on the left states "A unique experience in dining. The exotic setting of a Polynesian paradise with the exquisite flavor of authentic Polynesian dishes imported from the islands". Eventually the novelty of Polynesian-themed restaurants wore off and the Luau closed in 1982 - "... the end of an era". (See Photo)


 
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Dustycajun
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 16, 2007
Posts: 5093
From: Santa Barbara, CA
Posted: 2014-11-03 11:20 am   Permalink

Betty Booop,

Welcome to Tiki Central. An stories from the Luau Room?

I found a few interior photos of the original Luau Room that was located in Standiford Field.






Great scene of the suits at the Tiki bar!

DC


 
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Dustycajun
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 16, 2007
Posts: 5093
From: Santa Barbara, CA
Posted: 2014-11-03 11:45 am   Permalink

Another photo of the Luau Room with a Tiki.




And a story on the Standiford Field location.



DC


 
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Nineveh
Tiki Centralite

Joined: May 17, 2003
Posts: 39
From: Louisville, KY
Posted: 2018-03-23 2:35 pm   Permalink

I have been dreading this day. The University of Louisville has been encroaching on the Luau Room site for the past few years, buying and knocking down factories and bars in order to build a forest of high rise dormitories. Now someone wants the space on which the Luau Room stands.

I do not know if any of the decor remains. I was contacted several years ago by someone who was selling a few pieces on Ebay. I was both dismayed and perplexed, as I had always heard that the owner refused to sell any part of it, and had all the original tables and chairs in storage. Of course, I know now that he passed not too long after I posted my original message here. I do not know who inherited the property or what their feelings are regarding it. I have been wondering for some time why someone could not see the potential in a bar space, tricked out in full Tiki, located a stone's throw from multiple high rise dorms.

Here is the link to the development proposal:
http://portal.louisvilleky.gov/codesandregs/permit/detail?type=SITEPLAN&id=18DEVPLAN1036

Nineveh, aka Nancy Beranek


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Nineveh
Tiki Centralite

Joined: May 17, 2003
Posts: 39
From: Louisville, KY
Posted: 2018-03-23 3:36 pm   Permalink

For what it's worth, here are the notes I made on my research along the way:

1947
Dobb's House airline catering business sells 2.5 million airline meals annually.

1954
Joe's Palm Room opens at 13th and Magazine.

1957
Trader Vic's Chicago opens
Carling Dinkler Jr. opens the Atlanta Luau. According to his son Carling Dinkler III, he was inspired by Trader Vic's Chicago.

1959
Atlanta Luau sold at great profit to the Dobb's House Restaurant chain. Maybe because he was ill?

1961
An illness leads Carling Dinkler Jr. to leap from his penthouse balcony. Luau sold to Dobb's House airline catering and restaurant chain, who use it as a blueprint to open Luau rooms in airports across the country.

1962
The Welcome to Greater Louisville Guide for Feb 7th, 1962 has an ad for Gordon's Golden Horse Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge 637 S. 4th in downtown Louisville and their Luau Room, located at 635 S. 4th. Phone: JU3-5439 "We have all American dishes (they mention charbroiled steaks and chops) plus exotic polynesian food. For a south sea island vacation away from the strife of life, visit our unusual Luau Room. Dancing Wed. thru Sat. Hula Dancing nightly by Leilani. Free hula lessons Wed. thru Sat. Font extremely similar but not identical to Dobb's House Luau promo material.

Elsewhere in the same dining guide they are listed separately, with no mention of each other. The Luau Room listing mentions a "Chinese Chef."

There is a third listing for each in the same guide. Gordon's Golden Horse here mentions offering lobster. They call themselves "Headquarters for Kentucky Mint Juleps" and say they have given away 34,010 souvenier glasses.

The third listing for The Luau Room reads, verbatim:

"One of the most attractive and newest restaurants is the Luau Room at 635 S. 4th Street. In fact, the Louisville Central Area Inc., gave the management of the Luau Room a 'Certificate of Recognition for uniqueness. What's more there is free dancing Wednesday through Saturday. Come have fun. There is no cover - no minimum.

The Luau Room offers and exciting Polynesian atmosphere for your dining pleasure, and is the only restaurant in downtown Louisville where you can find a genuine Polynesian menu. Chef Eddie Chinn, from Hong Kong, offers the most exotic dishes you can imagine at truly moderate prices.

Want to learn the Twist and the Hula? Lovely Leilani, who thrills the patrons with her Twist and Hula dances is happy to give patrons free lessons on Wed., Thurs., Fri and Sat. nights. So, take a vacation trip to the fabulous Luau Room and learn to do the Twist and the Hula to perfection."


Riney's South Seas Bar and Lounge - "414 W. Walnut (now Muhammed Ali) between 4th and 5th. Here's the place to get a Mint Julep. Take home the souvenier glass." So they were openly competing with Gordon's? Piano and guitar entertainment.

No mention anywhere in the guide of either Dinkler or Dobb's.

1963
John Shanchuk hired as a dishwasher at the Luau Room in the airport. He was 15. (57 in 2005)

1968

Dobb's House airline catering business sold to Squibb Corp.

1973
A regular caller to Reed Yadon's radio program on WAKY was a redhead getting off-shift from The Luau Room at the airport at 7am.


1977
Luau Room listed in Louisville phone book two ways. The first was simply as itself, "Luau Room Serving Polynesian and American cuisine. Valet parking. 2nd floor above Delta Airlines. Standiford Field 363-2669." The second is as "Dobb's House Luau Room. Standiford Field 363-2669." According to a Dobb's House Luau menu, there was a location in Louisville, and here we see it was true. There was no ad.

There are also listings for Dobb's House Standiford Field catering, airport restaurant, and gift shop; plus listings for a Dobb's House office at 1136 S. 4th (at the front of the parking lot of what would be Winn-Dixie) and two Dobb's House Snack Bars, one at 2410 Brownsboro Road and the other at 4213 Shelbyville Road.
Old Louisville Newsletter 2003: "1136 S. 4th St. (Old Dobbs House Restaurant) - has been recently purchased by Bob Bajandas at a Commissioner’s sale. He is pursuing the use of the 25' x 60' building as another restaurant. He indicated that much of the kitchen equipment is still there and could be reused. It will be several months, however, before he has clear title due to the 'Dower Rights' law." Next issue says "Formerly the Dobbs House and Steak and Egg". They mean a Steak N' Egger which was vacant when I arrived in town (1990). Located in the parking lot of the Winn-Dixie, it was in very bad condition when I used to shop there (before 1996). Looked like drug addicts might be living inside. It was demolished a couple years ago (looking back from 2007), probably by this Roberto J. "Bob" Bajandas character.

Joe's Palm Room in phone book. 1821 W. Jefferson 583-9228

Blue Hawaii Restaurant listed as Shelbyville Road Plaza 895-5434. 1/4 page ad in phone book said: "Polynesian and Chinese Cuisine. Individually prepared dishes at reasonable rates. Aloha complete dinner. PUU PUU tray (Appetizer) Free. Cocktails. Exotic Polynesian drinks. Open 7 days. Dinner. Mon. - Sat. 5pm - 11:30pm Sun 3pm-10pm.

There was a Golden Horseshoe Bar and Lounge listed at 12600 Dixie 937-9153.

No Gordon's Golden Horse listed.

No Polynesian Palace listed.


1979

All Dobb's House and Luau Room listings unchanged from 1977 phone book.

John Shanchuk's son John, who was 6 at this time, recalls a host of glassware: skulls, tikis. I have highball glasses. Someone else has brown Luau Orchids of Hawaii mugs, probably from the Dobb's House Luau chain. If they were affiliated with them they probably all used the same mugs.

Polynesian Palace listed in phone book. 2239 Oak 776-9505

Blue Hawaii Restaurant listing unchanged from 1977.

?
John Shanchuk became manager of The Luau Room.

1983
John Shanchuk's son John says The Luau Room closed this year, but according to the phone book, three years from this point it was on 4th Street. He also says he was 10 in 1983, and that he was never in the 4th Street location. He says his father, with silent partner Ben Edelen, took a big tiki, a table and chairs (for his home dining room), several recipes and several employees, and opened John E's. (2005 article about John E's says "In the almost twenty years he has owned the restaurant...") BTW, "Celestial Chicken" may have been a Dobb's House recipe. See the August 2006 post below about the Houston Dobb's House.

1984
Dobbs House airline catering and food-service is a subsidiary of Chicago-based Carson Pirie Scott & Co. Maybe it wasn't airport expansion which closed the Luau Room. Maybe Carson Pirie-Scott cut them loose?

1986
Luau Room 2420 S. 4th 635-6638 Ad says "Polynesian and American Food and Exotic Drinks. South Seas and Hawaiian atmosphere. Originally located at Standiford Field." The font and icons are now identical to the Dobb's Luau chain. The drawing is of a freestanding building, similar but not true to 4th street location. Sign in drawing says "Welcome to Luau" and two giant tikis are shown outside.

Only remaining Dobb's House listing is for catering, Standiford Field.

John E's Restaurant and Lounge 3708 Bardstown Road 456-111

Joe's Palm Room still at 1821 W. Jefferson with new # 581-1251

Polynesian Palace listing unchanged from 1979.

Blue Hawaii is not listed.


1990
2420 S. 4th is a Mexican restaurant.

2002 /2003
2420 S. 4th is a Salvation Army thrift store.


2003 /2004

2420 S. 4th sporadically operated as B2 Dreams, a hip hop club. The B2 Dreams equipment was removed in January 2007.


Nineveh, aka Nancy Beranek


 
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Nineveh
Tiki Centralite

Joined: May 17, 2003
Posts: 39
From: Louisville, KY
Posted: 2018-03-23 4:01 pm   Permalink

Here's a story our local NPR
station did last year:

http://wfpl.org/welcome-to-the-luau-room-louisvilles-lost-airport-oasis/

Nineveh, aka Nancy Beranek


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Nineveh
Tiki Centralite

Joined: May 17, 2003
Posts: 39
From: Louisville, KY
Posted: 2018-03-23 4:05 pm   Permalink

A link to a blog post by the author interviewed in the WFPL piece:

https://lostrestaurantsoflouisville.com/portfolio/lost-chapters-the-luau-room/

Nineveh, aka Nancy Beranek


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Nineveh
Tiki Centralite

Joined: May 17, 2003
Posts: 39
From: Louisville, KY
Posted: 2018-03-23 4:08 pm   Permalink

I missed this, from 2014:

http://www.wdrb.com/story/27482111/under-used-site-near-university-of-louisville-to-get-new-life

Nineveh, aka Nancy Beranek


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MaukaHale
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 07, 2012
Posts: 811
From: The base of the Volcano
Posted: 2018-03-23 4:55 pm   Permalink

It kinda looks like there is nothing that can be done to save it.

 
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Nineveh
Tiki Centralite

Joined: May 17, 2003
Posts: 39
From: Louisville, KY
Posted: 2018-03-24 09:59 am   Permalink

That 2014 piece makes it sound like they were open to ideas. I would love to see it revived, of course, and don't understand how no one sees the potential. During the B2 Dreams phase it was host to some events that PACKED the place, shoulder to shoulder, and that was before the dorms started creeping closer and closer.

 
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