Media contact: Chris Knape, 616-293-1886

Monumental new restaurant and tiki bar coming to downtown Grand Rapids

Some of the tiki world’s best-known names creating a 3-story urban escape

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Some of the best-known tiki entrepreneurs and artists are joining forces in downtown Grand Rapids to create a monumental new dining and drinking experience, set to open this summer.

Max’s South Seas Hideaway, a partnership between Martin Cate, a James Beard award winning author, bar owner, and rum and exotic cocktail expert, Mark Sellers, creator of acclaimed bars like HopCat, Stella’s Lounge and TikiCat, and Gecko, a renowned Hawaii-based tiki and Polynesian artist, will open in August inside the historic Waldron building, 58 Ionia Ave. SW.

“Some of the best people in the business are working together to create this oasis that will put Grand Rapids on the map for tiki enthusiasts around the world,” Sellers said. “More importantly, Max’s will serve as a unique and unforgettable getaway for people in West Michigan looking to escape reality – even if only for a few hours.”

The new venture will be owned and operated separately from BarFly Ventures and other companies in which Sellers is involved.

The three-story tiki bar, restaurant and boutique lodging will transport guests into a fantasy world of perpetual tropical twilight outfitted with original and vintage tiki artwork and décor. Cate, of San Francisco, will craft a cocktail menu that includes classic exotic cocktails pioneered by places like the legendary Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic’s alongside original tiki libations exclusive to Max’s South Seas Hideaway.

Cate is known around the world as the author of “Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki” and the creator of Smuggler’s Cove, a San Francisco tiki bar that was named to the World’s 50 Best Bars list 6 years in a row, and called one of the greatest bars on Earth by The Sunday Times of London. He is part owner of three other award-winning tiki bars, as well as Whitechapel, a gin bar with national recognition for its original and transportive interior design.

“We’re bringing an entirely new drinking and dining experience to Grand Rapids that we think will stand alongside the best tiki bars in the world,” said Cate, who will personally train managers and bartenders about the history of tiki as an arts, design, and cocktail movement, and proper technique for executing exotic cocktails.

In 2008 Sellers founded HopCat in Grand Rapids. HopCat was named No. 3 Beer Bar on Planet Earth by and best brewpub in America by Since then Sellers has opened 20 other bars.

Sellers collaborated with Cate to open TikiCat, named “Best Tiki Bar in the World” by the users of in 2017, in the basement of HopCat – Kansas City. That work resulted in a friendship that spawned the idea to create Max’s.

Other highlights of Max’s South Seas Hideaway will include:

  • Custom interior design work by Bamboo Ben and Notch Gonzalez, three of the world’s most acclaimed tiki artisans known for their work on bars that include TikiCat, Undertow, and Smuggler’s Cove.
  • On display for the first time will be a large portion of Sellers’ collection of rare mid-century tiki art, which is one of the largest and most valuable collections of its kind in the world.
  • A custom-built saltwater aquarium.
  • Three unique and immersive bar environments celebrating the artistic diversity of tiki culture.
  • Seven tiki-themed apartments on the third floor, available for rent. Pending city approval, the units are expected to be completed by early 2020, with online reservations starting in the fall.
  • A first-of-its-kind in-house “kiln-to-table” ceramic studio where local and national artists will design and create unique, limited edition ceramic mugs and bowls to be sold at Max’s and on its website.

Hiring for management positions is under way. Hiring for more than 80 hourly positions will begin in July. Visit, and @maxstiki on Instagram to follow the progress.