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Stowaway brings its tiki vibe to a new home in Tustin

Owners Dominic Iapello and Leonard Chan, from left, stand at the new Stowaway Tiki Bar, which has reopened in Tustin.
Owners Dominic Iapello and Leonard Chan, from left, stand in one of the decorative rooms at the new Stowaway Tiki Bar, which has reopened in Tustin.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)
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In early November, Stowaway Tiki at Union Market at the District in Tustin closed its doors following a lawsuit that forced out subleasing tenants.

“Aloha our Stowaway Ohana,” a Stowaway Instagram post from Nov. 5 read. “Keep an eye out for our announcement of a new location nearby soon!”

Co-owners Leonard Chan and Dominic Iapello were on the lookout for a new home for their popular bar and were planning to move into a space in Irvine.

The central bar is adorned with South Pacific decor at the new Stowaway Tiki Bar location in Tustin.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“We were hoping that when we had to shut down there in November, we would be back up and running in January if it worked out,” said Chan. “But it didn’t work out.”

Instead the concept reopened its new location on 14401 Newport Ave. in Tustin in May, in a space formerly occupied by Marty’s Bar & Grill.

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“Initially we started in this space to help out friends with the bar,” Chan said.

The former dive bar with mid-century bones seemed like a logical choice after the other space fell through.

“Tiki kind of was born during that mid-century modern era so we knew that we could still use the bones here and retool things and put our touches on it,” said Chan.

The Stowaway team tapped professional tiki designer “Bamboo Ben” Bassham for the refurbishment of the new, much larger space.

The central bar is adorned with South Pacific decor at the new Stowaway Tiki Bar location in Tustin.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“We were so used to higher ceilings, and we were struggling with how to keep it cozy but still make the space look inviting,” said Chan.

Bassham’s answer was to build bamboo A-frames over each of the cushy booths.

“Bamboo Ben and his son, Blake, are so creative. I would just give them a little bit of direction and then I would show up two days later and half the stuff is already erected,” said Chan.

Artist Josh Agle, known professionally as “Shag,” also lent his distinct mod stylings to the bathroom wallpaper and Stowaway’s logo.

There are pool tables in the new space, decked out in funky felt as well as more private areas like a skull cave with a waterfall feature and a cabana lounge that can accommodate larger groups.

“You can almost have three different experiences in one space,” said Chan. “You have the bar, then we have a casual area with the pool tables, and the other side is more of the lounge side.”

A blue Hawaiian cocktail is a guest favorite at the new Stowaway Tiki Bar location in Tustin.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Stowaway is still serving a menu of classic tiki cocktails like mai tais, rum runner’s and painkillers, plus some original Stowaway twists.

“Dominic created 90% of the cocktails on the menu,” Chan said. “I know we switched up the recipes on about eight different cocktails when we moved over.”

The food menu is also getting a bit of a revamp with favorites like spam musubi, Chinese five-spice wings and the addition of more shareable items designed for groups like spam nachos and lightly battered shishito peppers.

The central bar is adorned with South Pacific decor at the new Stowaway Tiki Bar location in Tustin.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Stowaway is soft open now, accepting walk-ins nightly, with plans to begin in a few weeks taking reservations like the former location did. A grand opening event is planned for Tuesday, June 6.

Chan said Stowaway developed such a following during its tenure at Union Market that he and Iapello felt compelled to keep it going, and he assures fans they will love the new space just as much.

“The spirit of the old space has remained pretty much intact,” Chan said.

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