Photo by Brandon Macz: Clever Dunne's closed on East Olive Way at the end of January.
Photo by Brandon Macz: Clever Dunne's closed on East Olive Way at the end of January.
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From Irish pub to Polynesian-themed karaoke bar: Hula Hula is moving to Capitol Hill, replacing Clever Dunne’s on East Olive Way.

“They came to me, and they knew I was looking for a place,” said Hula Hula owner Keith Robbins of taking over the Clever Dunne’s space at 1501 E. Olive Way. “They came to me, and I bought it from them.”

Robbins opened cocktail lounge Tini Bigs in the Lower Queen Anne building back in 1996. The next-door space he’s occupied for the past 27 years started as the Romp Room and then Water Town, before finding success as Hula Hula, with island-themed drinks and karaoke, originally just four nights a week. 

Ten years ago, Robbins said everything was being built “super slick and upscale.”

“We just wanted to go downscale,” he said, “and make it fun and not so damn serious, and that’s how it started.”

But new development at First and Denny is what is necessitating Hula Hula’s move. A 7-story mixed-use apartment building is slated for development there, and the 1929 structure will be razed.

Hula Hula and Tini Bigs originally had notice to be out in October, Robbins said, but then there were several extensions.

The hope is to relocate to Capitol Hill and reopen by late March/early April, Robbins said, before the old building comes down.

Clever Dunne’s threw a party/wake before closing at the end of January.

Robbins said there’s a lot of confusion about Hula Hula’s status, which at one point had been reported as closing at the end of 2016.

“We’re literally getting calls every day — ‘Are you still open?’ ” he said. “Yelp closed us both.” That has since been fixed. “I’m glad we’re still open. I’m glad we found a place to move, because it was down to the 11th hour.”

While Hula Hula is moving, Tini Bigs won’t be joining it up on the Hill. The old Clever Dunne’s just isn’t big enough, Robbins said.

“Tinis has had a great life, and it’s time to move on,” he said, adding he had looked at other locations. “Ever since the Sonics left and smoking went away — Tinis was a cigar bar — it’s never been the same since.”

Hula Hula, however, has had some of its best business ever over the past several years, Robbins said.

Just because the karaoke bar needed a new home, didn’t mean Robbins wanted a new building, he said.

“That was the big draw,” Robbins said of the Clever Dunne’s site. “I had opportunities to go into a lot of new buildings, which I had, I’m going to say, less than no interest in. Those older buildings have some character and some soul.”

Hula Hula on Capitol Hill will have new features, Robbins said, but a lot of the old is coming over from Lower Queen Anne.

“It’ll still feel like Hula Hula,” he said. “I’m not sure an upgrade would be the right terminology, but we’re going to step up the tiki a little more.”

That means tiki huts for the booths, stage and bar, he said.

Classic Lava Bowls will stay on the drink menu, next to a few new cocktails.

And, of course, there will continue to be karaoke seven days a week, which should provide some competition for the Crescent Lounge down the street.

Keep up with Hula Hula's move by following the bar on Facebook.