Bursting with nearly 3,000 years of culture in the Pacific Islands, kava has brought people together for centuries. With the addition of Lacuna Kava Bar in downtown Phoenix on April 5, that culture can now be found just off of Roosevelt Row.
Derived from the root of the Piper Methysticum plant, which means “intoxicating or enchanting pepper,” kava is the national drink of Fiji and has been used in ceremonies for centuries. For Chase Brendle, owner of Lacuna Kava Bar, the plant-based drink offers a deeper and healthier form of human interaction.
“Island tribes have used it to achieve a higher level of consciousness throughout history, and here we use it as a social and recreational beverage to connect with other people,” Brendle said. “To me, it’s not just about owning one kava bar — it’s bringing the entire nation a choice in their health and how they connect with other people.”
Kava is known for its relaxing and meditative properties, and can sometimes cause mild numbing to the mouth or tongue. On its own kava tea has an earthy taste, and Lacuna Kava Bar offers a variety of mixed cocktails to give the traditional beverage a more mainstream and pleasant taste.
Along with kava, Lacuna Kava Bar will sell CBD tea among other brews, focusing on planet and body friendly, fair trade, sustainably sourced and mostly vegan foods. Prices will range from $6 to $10. Brendle said that using only “pronounceable” ingredients is a high priority.
In addition, Lacuna Kava Bar will offer another form of social vibrancy through its art exhibits on the first Friday of each month.
At its grand opening, the bar will give away one month of free kava and will host live music and live painting.
Paying homage to the building’s history, Brendle said that art is invaluable to Lacuna Kava Bar. Once an exhibit and later an Arizona State University art museum, the building, located one block south of Roosevelt on 3rd street, has been given new life through Lacuna Kava Bar.
“It was an art gallery, to begin with, the mural is still on the wall from the original owner of the building,” Brendle said. “It’s really cool to have something that each month is renewed and changed. It speaks to the context of what a kava bar is. It’s about growth, change, bringing new thought. Why not incorporate that on the walls as well?”
As the only kava bar in the state, Brendle said that he wants to bring a health-conscious and elevating alternative to the bar scenes of Phoenix.
“This is so different from anything people are accustomed to, especially in Western culture,” Brendle said. “We get so focused on what’s going around us that we often forget to stop and really enjoy the moments we spend connecting with others. “That’s what I really want people to experience when they come in.”
By definition, lacuna means a space, gap or hiatus, and Brendle said he wants Lacuna Kava Bar to provide people a sense of freedom and escape, an “urban oasis”, from mundane daily activities and city life.
The bar is open to anyone 18 or older and will host specials like “Thursday Heels and Deals” and “Tuesday Night Talks,” where artists, entrepreneurs and independent thinkers are encouraged to share ideas and services.
Lacuna Kava Bar will be open from 10 a.m. to 12 a.m.. Monday through Thursday and close at midnight on Friday and Saturday. The bar will close at 8 p.m. on Sunday with hours extending soon.
Once only drunk by the elite class in Pacific Island communities, kava is a symbol of welcome and social gatherings. In the wide sprawls of buildings and business life in downtown Phoenix, Brendle hopes to provide a social outlet untethered from the traditional bar scene.
Lacuna Kava Bar