In the basement of the Mt. Fuji Inn at 72nd and Blondo Streets, accessible through a door that looks like an emergency exit, is the Mai Tai Lounge.
The Mai Tai is one of those places that seems to have spent the past 50 years sealed in a time capsule, under a layer of lava or (given the decor) at the bottom of the sea. The decor includes bamboo light fixtures, velvet paintings of stylized naked women, metallic wallpaper with a palm-tree motif and fish tanks that are built into the walls. Many of the bar's numerous and overwhelmingly glowing reviews on Yelp compare the lounge to a pirate ship.
“I don't think anything has changed since I was here 10 years ago,” said my friend Lindsey when we stopped in on Friday night. “The fish, probably.”
The bar truly hasn't changed much since it opened in 1970, said Mike DeLost, better known as Mai Tai Mike, who has tended bar there off and on since 1974.
The more than two dozen strong, sweet and smooth drinks on the menu — categorized by their potency — are all recipes of the original owner, Alice Kaya. The menu warns that patrons are cut off after two drinks in the strongest category, though Mike said that doesn't always happen.
Mt. Fuji Snow, a particularly popular concoction, is a frozen coffee liqueur and a good after-dinner drink, Mike said. Another popular drink, the Navy Grog, is set on fire before serving.
A few original drinks were removed from the menu after a green tea liqueur became difficult to find, and the Chi Chi — basically a pina colada with vodka instead of rum — changed slightly after one of the liqueurs was discontinued. But the drink menu has been another constant in the lounge.
And for the most part, Mai Tai Mike has always been there, too.
Mike's long history there began one night when he stopped in for a drink and struck up a conversation with the bartender. They hit it off, and before long he had a job.
Mike, then 21, would often stop at Denny's for a late-night breakfast on the nights that he closed. There, he met a waitress named Angie.
By 1976, Angie was working at the Mai Tai Lounge, too.
The couple has lived together for 36 years and has been married for 20. And Angie also still works at the Mai Tai as a weekend cocktail waitress.
The crowd has changed. In the beginning, the lounge attracted an older clientele, often couples grabbing a drink before going to dinner at the popular and always busy Mt. Fuji Inn upstairs.
In the early 1990s, a group of Creighton students made the lounge their Thursday night hangout, Mike said. Later, members of the now-defunct UNO wrestling program frequented the bar. Now it's much more a college hangout than a drinks-before-dinner place.
“It's gotten to be a dive,” Mike said. “It was very high class when I first started there.”
Around the time the college crowd arrived, a rumor that the bar was closing soon began making the rounds. It still is.
It's not true.
Mike says that rumor probably can be traced to him, when he's playing the role of grumpy bartender.
“It's a game that we play,” he said. “But it's not really.”
The Mai Tai Lounge is open Monday through Thursday from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday from 4:30 p.m. to midnight.
Fun-Plex's popular adults-only Park After Dark is back.
Park After Dark is when the park stays open until midnight or later for patrons over 21. The park at 7003 Q St. abruptly put an end to it last week.
Fun-Plex announced the news via Facebook, and disappointed patrons posted more than 100 comments for Park After Dark's return.
By the week's end, it was back.
Fun-Plex is now open from 8:30 p.m. to midnight Friday through Monday. Admission is $10, up from $5.