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Best Honolulu Bars for Networking

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     Photo: Courtesy of Ryan Matsumoto

Stage Restaurant

If you’re into wine – and you’re looking to connect with other like-minded connoisseurs – Stage is your kind of place. This fine-dining restaurant on the second floor of the Honolulu Design Center – which also houses the versatile Cupola Theatre and Amuse Wine Bar – hosts wine-tasting events in a contemporary setting. In fact, all wine bottles are half off on Tuesdays, with a daily happy hour that features $5 draft beers, pupu and signature cocktails.

“It’s a huge facility with free parking, large bathrooms and in a central location,” Tamaye says. “It’s great for wine-drinker-targeted events.”

It’s a great place for lunch meetings and after-work get-togethers, too. Its Asian-fusion menu has such palate-pleasing options as Kurobuta pork chops with Yukon potato puree, seared hamachi with a yuzu-mustard vinaigrette, pan-roasted New Zealand king salmon with prosciutto-wrapped asparagus and a whole-grain mustard butter sauce, and a coffee panna cotta you can’t miss.

The entire venue at the Honolulu Design Center is versatile for all types of events: the Cupola can be used for film screenings and concerts, the Ice Bar is an intimate venue with hi-tops and barstools that look like ice carvings, and the Sunset Terrace can seat up to 170 guests outdoors with tray service and food stations.

Honolulu Design Center, 1250 Kapiolani Blvd., 237-5429,



Being in Waikiki isn’t always a bad thing.

Case in point: Rumfire in the Sheraton Waikiki, which has played host to dozens of networking events, industry mixers and high school reunions.

There’s a lot of indoor and outdoor seating, with panoramic views of Waikiki’s famous surf breaks and Diamond Head. It’s got a menu with a variety of food choices, from fish tacos to kim chee fried rice. The bar boasts more than 100 rare and unique rums and happy-hour discounts twice a day. And there’s validated parking. Yes, in Waikiki.

It’s become a popular pau hana spot for Waikiki-based professionals and those who want to venture out of downtown.

“It’s a very nice venue to showcase the island,” says Takai, whose office is off Kalakaua Avenue. “Even if it’s a business networking (event) or just socializing with friends, you really gain an appreciation for being in Hawaii.”

Sheraton Waikiki, 2255 Kalakaua Ave., 922-4422,


Hukilau Honolulu

Sometimes the best networking spots are the ones within walking distance of your office.

That’s why Hukilau, located on the bottom floor of the Executive Centre on Bishop Street, is a popular lunch and pau-hana hangout for downtown workers in need of tasty, local-style grub in a laid-back, no-deadline environment.

The menu, alone, will incite your salivary glands, with truffled fries topped with asiago cheese, crispy shrimp and lobster potstickers, grilled kalbi ribs, Kobe beef burgers and its popular prime-rib chili with rice.

The restaurant also hosts live music and events – such as Sushi & Martini on Thursday nights – with pupu and drink specials. Nothing lures downtown workers faster than cheap eats and beer.

“It’s a comfortable atmosphere and it’s located in downtown,” says Scott Yoshihara, a vice president at Bank of Hawaii, who attends networking events to keep in touch with industry colleagues and stay on top of what’s going on. “I haven’t gotten a lot of tangible business, per se, but, more importantly I’ve made new friends and contacts, which is important in a small town like Hawaii.”

Executive Centre, 1088 Bishop St., 523-3460,

(Disclosure: The parent company of Hawaii Business magazine, aio Hawaii, is also a part owner of Hukilau.)


Uncle Bo’s

You’re having a hard week. That dreaded deadline just got pushed up. Your least favorite coworker got assigned to your project. To top it off, the only copy machine in the office broke.

You need a drink.

Uncle Bo’s has been a favorite watering hole for over-worked folks since it opened about five years ago on Kapahulu Avenue. In addition to a full bar – trust us, you can find just about any drink you want here – the casual restaurant offers more than 35 different pupu, including Thai-style steamer clams, kalua-pig fried rice, tiger pork kabobs and something called a Boca-Rota (garlic cheesy bread with sliced prime rib, sautéed mushrooms and mozzarella cheese).

If you can’t seem to meet people at the bar or in its lofted lounge dining room, Uncle Bo’s has a private room that seats up to 65 people, making it a great, intimate setting for events or business meetings.

“It has a casual but classy atmosphere, and draws a diverse crowd and a lot of young professionals,” says James Chan, 30, a Realtor and partner with Prudential Locations LLC. “The way young professionals are meeting each other and interacting with each other today is much different from just five years ago. Face-to-face interaction in more casual and less professional settings seems to be the trend.”

559 Kapahulu Ave., 735-8311,


     Photo: Kevin Blitz

Waiolu Oceanview Lounge

It’s got a multimillion-dollar view in a multimillion-dollar hotel.

That’s why this lounge in the Trump International Hotel, which seats about 80, is quickly becoming a hot spot for networking events. Its unobstructed view of the Pacific Ocean in a relaxed setting will make you feel as though you’re on vacation – when you’re really just minutes from the office.

While the lounge serves a mix of Italian, Japanese and local favorites on its dinner menu – from black-truffle risotto to miso butterfish to its version of the classic loco moco topped with a quail egg – the real draw is the drinks menu.

The diverse offerings include its award-winning signature mai tai, made with Old Lahaina rum, orgeat syrup, mango puree, fresh lime and pineapple-mango foam. The lounge can create custom drinks for each event, too.

“We pride ourselves in ‘liquid artistry,’ specialty drinks made from the freshest ingredients,” says Liana Mulleitner, director of residences and public relations at the hotel. “We don’t just make drinks; we create them.”

Trump International Hotel, 223 Saratoga Rd., 683-7777,


Other Ways to Network

Join professional organizations: Just about every industry – from media to real estate – has professional groups that serve as instant networking circles. These organizations often host mixers, lunch talks, fundraisers and community-service projects that provide opportunities for members to meet, socialize and, ideally, help each other.

Emi Hart, community manager for in Honolulu, attends monthly luncheons hosted by the Public Relations Society of America, where she learns about new trends and issues in the industry while meeting new people.

“I am a firm believer that success is 20 percent what you know and 80 percent who you know, especially in Hawaii,” Hart says. “It’s amazing how much faster things get done when you’ve met someone in person and are able to create a great working relationship.”

Get involved with nonprofits: Nonprofit organizations rely heavily on fundraisers – and these fundraising events can be great places to meet like-minded professionals who share similar interests and values, whether it’s raising money for the American Heart Association or cleaning up beaches with the Surfrider Foundation.

Tanna Dang, owner of The Wedding Café and Eden in Love, launched her own nonprofit, Divas Doing Good, which has become a networking group of sorts. “Building new relationships, developing existing relationships, renewing past relationships – it’s amazing how much business can get done at happy hours or at an industry get-together,” Dang says.

Attend trade seminars: Not only will attending conferences, workshops and seminars contribute to your professional development, these are often great places to meet other people in your field. “It really comes full circle,” says Kim Fujinaka, marketing coordinator for PacRim Marketing Group, who likes to attend seminars on social media. “You’re likely to run into those same people at the next workshop.” 

Get on social media: These days, Facebook, Twitter and Yelp have become their own virtual networking venues, with people in every industry using these free social-media sites to connect with clients and customers, promote their businesses and meet new people. Facebook makes it easy to find relevant events, Twitter users organize tweet-ups to interact, and Yelp stages its own social events, from karaoke nights to beach potlucks.

“Social media has been a fantastic marketing tool for growing and developing an audience for events,” says Danielle Scherman, founder and president of Social Wahines. “(This area) is absolutely growing, so much that sometimes there are too many events on any given night. I think this is a good problem to have and it’s great that Hawaii’s business people have so many outlets for networking, growing their businesses and developing their careers.”

Take advantage of every opportunity: Most professionals will tell you – every time you go out, whether it’s to a trade show or the nearest bar, there’s always an opportunity to network.

“Surprising as it is, I’ve met a lot of people at the gym,” says Scott Kamiya, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties. “I guess, the typical salesperson that I am, I like to talk to anyone at the gym. I think a lot of people these days are into exercise and getting fit, so this is the perfect venue to meet like-minded people and to build those relationships.”

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