Capitol Hill rum bar Rumba is heading undersea where it is going to be a little more colorful and, maybe, just a little bit more fun. Travis Rosenthal, owner of the leading Seattle purveyor of rum, has announced the planned summer opening of Inside Passage, a neighboring bar accessed in a descent through Rumba into a grotto of idols and South Pacific stylings from one of the leading designers of tiki-celebrating culture on the planet.
“The tiki culture is about escapism and trying to achieve that narrative is crucial, so Rosenthal enlisted the help of Notch Gonzalez from Top Notch Kustoms based in San Jose, to create and curate an incredible tiki design that will honor the tiki culture and shine a light on tiki cocktails,” the Inside Passage announcement reads. “Gonzalez has helped create and fabricate some of the country’s best bars including Smuggler’s Cove, Whitechapel, False Idol and Hale Pele.”
The Rumba expansion and focus on tiki comes at an interesting moment for the genre.
The bars have been around for decades and the trend has faded in and out of style. Today, there is greater awareness of “cultural appropriation and colonial nostalgia” but the bars continue to proliferate.
On Capitol Hill, the current tiki king is a transplanted dive bar — the Hula Hula moved to E Olive Way in 2017.
With a world class designer at the helm, Inside Passage is focusing on the fun and style of the format. “Inside Passage will have all the balance, fun and beauty you’ve come to expect from Rumba, with all the extravagance of the world of tiki,” the announcement of the new venture reads. It will also have nearly a decade of Rumba’s sincere dedication to rum — with “650+ sugar cane spirits” on its shelves — to build on.
Aiming for a “summer” opening, the new bar space will be built out of the longtime Stussy shop retail space next to Rumba. Yes, there has been a Stussy shop at the base of Capitol Hill for more than ten years.
Rosenthal opened Rumba in September 2012 on Pike just around the corner from the growing Melrose food and drink scene and on the same block as his much-loved Tango:
Rumba is made to look like Ernest Hemingway hired a Pike/Pine interior designer, threw a wad of cash and said go to town: rosewood walls and floors, bookshelves lined with curated knick knacks. Palm frond fans circle overhead, and a giant taxidermy marlin rests on the wall. Island music, dim lighting, and nautical vibes, complete the atmospheric pitch. Servers scurry around carrying large daiquiris and bartenders climb up ladders like sailors on the main sail, grabbing all sorts of rum you didn’t even know existed.
Jen Akin, currently the general manager at Rumba, is heading up Inside Passage’s bar program with help from “long-time Seattle tiki expert” and bartender Sean Dumke. “His incredible collection of rare and collectible tiki mugs is only overshadowed by his love and knowledge of all things tiki,” Inside Passage promises. Rumba chef Alan Bochi owns adding a healthy dose of “tropical flair” to the food menu.
If the COVID-19 stuff and Seattle weather has you down, you don’t have to wait until summer to get a taste of the new project. Rumba “rumtenders” will feature a new Inside Passage drink on Wednesday’s during Rumba’s weekly tiki night.
Inside Passage is slated to open inside the expanded Rumba this summer. You can learn more at insidepassageseattle.com.
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