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Where to Smoke

O'Toole's Pub, Honolulu, Hawaii

Apr 12, 2011 | By Alejandro Benes
O'Toole's Pub, Honolulu, Hawaii
Fred Remington, left, co-owner of O'Toole's Pub, with writer Alejandro Benes.

Here's about all I really know in Hawaiian Pidgin English: ono grinds. It means delicious food. I don't know or much care about the derivation of the term, but there's plenty of ono grinds in Honolulu and environs. Just one thing, get your grind on (or something like that) before you go smoke a cigar at O'Toole's because this Irish pub does not serve food. And you won't care.

The most important thing to know about O'Toole's is that you can smoke a cigar there even though you're not legally allowed to do so under Hawaii's strict antismoking law passed in 2006.

"It's not up to the owner or the manager to enforce the law," explained Fred Remington, co-owner of O'Toole's, in an accent that tells you he's not a native. "It's up to the six-person Department of Health."

Remington said that in the four-plus years of the antismoking law's existence, only one person has been cited, "and that was a little, old lady smoking a cigarette in a public place."

Hawaii's antismoking activists confirmed that enforcement was lax at best, though they could not specify how many citations had been handed out.  Health department officials did not return calls.

Remington, who moved to Hawaii from Rhode Island in 1999, said, "We allow you to smoke, and we're fighting the law every legislative session." He said that law enforcement officials have better things to do than to go after smokers. "Cops come here to smoke," he said.

Remington also owns Kelly O'Neil's and The Irish Rose in Waikiki where—dramatic pause—YOU CAN ALSO SMOKE!

Kelly O' Neil's actually serves food, but, again, who cares? It's an Irish pub, not Alan Wong's. O'Toole's could be in New England or any Irish neighborhood on the mainland, but it is on the edge of Honolulu's Chinatown, near the docks for cruise ships, on what's known as the "Irish Corner." (There's a Murphy's across the street.)

The bar is decorated with seven televisions, always with sports on. The décor is early, and late, Fenway Park/Boston Red Sox memorabilia. A lot of it. Every Red Sox game is shown during the season.

As a friend of mine who is a Yankees fan likes to say, as he dismisses what he considers to be an annoying truth that is ultimately tolerable or beside the point, "Be that as it may."

He then goes on to add what he considers to be the important information. In the case of O'Toole's the important information is that you not only can smoke cigars there, but you can also buy them. The cigar menu, created by a cigar supplier who shall remain nameless, is scant, but does have a serious number of misspellings and some good sticks.

A "Pardon [sic] 3000" goes for $8.00.  A "Cuesto [sic]-Rey Tuscany will cost you $10.00 and a La Gloria Wavell will set you back $6.50. Not bad at all, really.

One could say that O'Toole's is discrete, but that's not the case, even though you can come in fairly inconspicuously using the back door. Everybody seems to know the deal here, though not everybody digs the smoking scene.

Everybody does seem to dig the nightly live music, which consists of pretty much everything from blues to Celtic to rock to Mike Love. (That would be the reggae artist, not the former Beach Boy.) Love plays most Mondays and Thursdays and is well worth a visit.

Of course, O'Toole's has the obligatory Guinness, Harp and Newcastle, but also a full bar and a beer garden in the back. Happy hour goes until 8:00 p.m.

O'Toole's is a great find and a great place to have a cigar until about 2:00 a.m. in a state where the authorities seem to hate the idea of you having a cigar.

Mahalo, brah!

Alejandro Benes lives and writes, mostly, in Southern California.

O'Toole's Pub
902 Nuuanu Ave.
Honolulu, HI 96813
Phone: (808) 947-3414

Kelley O'Neil's
311 Lewers St.
Honolulu (Waikiki), HI 96815
Phone: (808) 926-1777

Irish Rose Saloon
478 Ena Rd.
Honolulu, HI 96815
Phone: (808) 947-3414

"Sounded good until 'decorated with seven televisions'" —April 19, 2011 08:48 AM

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