Waikiki at night is a whole community on its own. As soon as the sun goes down, the vacationing tourists attend to their highly overpriced and extremely air-conditioned rooms, and a whole other culture of Waikiki shows up on the streets. This is a society of overworked nightclub employees, law-breaking drug-dealers and prostitutes, and alcoholic party people. However, within the last 2 years, 6 nightclubs have closed down, and 5 months ago the International Marketplace closed down for renovation. Furthermore, the Honolulu Police Department (HPD) has taken serious steps toward a moral clean-up of Waikiki nightlife, and that has highly affected the community.
The past couple of years’ renovations of Waikiki and close-down’s have been good for business, and Playbar has now become the hot spot of the Waikiki night community. Chris Jewitt, co-owner of Playbar Nightclub and one of the biggest puzzle-pieces of Waikiki, hosts most of the night community and sees all of the different faces of the night. “Every night is different,” Jewitt said. “We always have a very interesting group of people. It is never boring.”
“We have never been busier,” Jewitt said.” I never imagined I would be making this kind of money.”
But, the moral tightening of the night community has not been good for business for everybody. The pimps, prostitutes and drug-dealers have –because of the shrinking community –all merged together, and made the Playbar block the new hang out place. This also means they now have to look twice over their shoulder before an unconventional exchange of money takes place.
Just as well as the street workers are being under closer look from the HPD, Playbar has also felt the enhanced scrutiny when it comes to the clean-up. Jewitt and the Playbar staff have been tightening up their rules, and made sure no violations or law-breaking can be connected to them in fear of becoming the next closed-down club of Waikiki.
Playbar bouncer Kimo Tatupu has dealt with the nightlife community for years, and has plenty experience when it comes to dealing with the Waikiki population and their attempts of underage drinking. “We confiscate a handful of fake ID’s every single night,” Tatupu said. “We have the Liquor Commission showing up every week checking for violations, ready to cite anybody breaking the law, so we have to be very careful.”
Like HPD the Liquor Commission has been very visible in the Waikiki nightlife lately, and Playbar is very aware that it only takes one mistake for them to get shut down. “They’re breathing down our necks,” Jewitt said. “So when they show up we cannot have anything to hide or worry about.”
The recent tightening of the Waikiki night community has not only compressed what was an already small society, but it has also shown how juxtaposed and fragile this sub-culture is. The contradictions from the happy tourists to the struggling sex-workers truly appear when the sun goes down and the moon illuminates Waikiki at night.