One of the many perks of visiting every state in the country is that sooner or later, you are going to have to visit Hawaii. Chinatown, Honolulu, in the former red light district is where we found Smith’s Union Bar, aka Smitty’s. It was established in 1934 by a man named Joe Holley and served whiskey and entertainment to the sailors of Pearl Harbor. His son, Leroy Holley took the bar over and married the bartender Gail. Leroy was a well-connected lobbyist, who preferred to be known as “just some local guy who could get things done.” His role as the owner of Smith’s allowed him to get to know politicians, gangsters, sailors, and business tycoons. He lobbied for the working man, and Tony Rutledge, president of labor union-related nonprofit Unity House, said Holley was a friend of working people. "He was always ready to listen and help. He helped resolve a lot of problems behind the scenes. He was just a friendly guy”
Smith’s clearly hasn’t changed much over the years and the old navy pictures and cartoons that lined the narrow bar-room reminds one of the seedy sailor, feel of the bar. Our bartender, Darryl however, maintained the friendly warmth of Holley, the former owner, and kept the tunes playing and everyone’s feet tapping. While smiling and enjoying the classic rock tunes with cold, cheap beer, it was easy to make conversation with those around us. We loved how welcoming the atmosphere was in spite of a diversity of age, gender, and race amongst the regulars. Okay, so, full disclosure, the police were called before we left, but this time it wasn’t our fault (lol). Evidently not all customers were as impressed with such a diverse crowd, but one apple didn’t spoil the crate, so to speak, and with a little encouragement from the police, the bad apple moved on. By that time, our plan of stopping in for one beer had already become a four hour party, so instead of staying for karaoke, we said our good byes. We had walked about a block towards our hotel, when one of our new friends caught up with us to give us his contact information to stay in touch. We had made connections here that will leave the seedy old Navy bar a special place in our hearts!