When Hanson Nguyen decided he wanted a new place to go on Tuesday nights for drinks and down time with friends, he did the only thing he could do — Nguyen planned and launched the party himself.
"I’m 32 years old, and people my age are transitioning from the club scene to the bar scene," said the promoter, who presents his events around town as Level H Promotions. "Our weekend parties are crazy, so we needed a weekday place to come and drink and just lounge.
"I figured it’s a Tuesday, so we needed to create a few options. I wanted to make Bonsai a place where there was something for everyone to do."
Nguyen began his "H.A.B.I.T." — Hospitality and Bar Industry Tuesday — event in June, discovering relatively early on that different party choices for guests brought distinct groups of people into the restaurant at Waterfront Plaza. The multilevel space with additional outdoor seating gives Nguyen plenty of real estate to execute different vibes within the same location.
"Our crowd rotates," he explained, pausing to clarify that despite the party’s name, anyone could come to Bonsai and take advantage of the $2 food and drink specials. "There’s an older crowd from 6 to 8 p.m., then from 8 to 10 p.m. there are the people who come to watch movies. Then, after 10 p.m. people show up for the typical club experience.
"Everyone finds a place to do something."
‘H.A.B.I.T.’ at Bonsai Restaurant
Waterfront Plaza 500 Ala Moana Blvd.; 525-5080
EARLY IN THE evening one Tuesday last month, about half the tables in Bonsai’s first floor dining area were filled with a mix of people.
Nguyen’s Level H crew trickled in as we talked story over plates of gyoza ($2) and cold tofu ($2), taking up a cluster of tables directly in front of the bar itself ("This is where I hold all my business meetings now," he said), while on the other side of the room, a table of women lounged next to a couple enjoying drinks and pupus. Soon, the first movie of a scheduled double-feature would start, followed by resident DJ KT jumping on the decks — and TV screens — with his style of video mixing until midnight.
Throughout the night, Nguyen added, the upstairs dining room at Bonsai would remain available for those looking for a slightly quieter place to hang out. He figured calling it a study hall wasn’t sexy enough, so the area was dubbed the Laptop Lounge for those who want to plug in while away from home.
"About 10 to 15 people show up every week and post up with their laptops and work all night," he said. "Upstairs, there’s no reserved seating, free Wi-Fi, and the waitresses don’t show up every five minutes to check on you. Downstairs is about eating, drinking and having a good time, but upstairs is about wanting to relax and do your own thing. Do what you need to do."