This piece of Old Hawai‘i has been closed to business for about 25 years, yet it retains its influence in Chinatown, Honolulu. The Pantheon Bar first opened its doors under the auspices of Joseph Silva in 1883. Its large wooden bar was shipped in after making the journey around Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America.
The Pantheon Bar occupied three locations during its lifetime. In 1900, the building housing the bar was demolished by the health department following two deaths from the plague in the building next door. The building, located at 1129 Nu‘uanu Avenue, was rebuilt in 1911 and, to this date, houses the old wooden bar. The sidewalk before the Pantheon is notable, as well. Its granite blocks are reinforced with discarded ballasts from 19th century sailing ships that had imported tea and exported sandalwood.
The Pantheon was popular with King David Kalākaua even as it became popular with visiting sailors. It played host to merchant seamen, navy seamen, members of the other armed forces, tourists, and locals, alike, for about 100 years, although its closing date remains elusive.
The Pantheon Bar appeared in two episodes of Hawaii Five-0, “Dear Enemy” (Season 3) and “Draw Me a Killer” (Season 6).
Since its closing, the Pantheon has been the subject of a dispute over how it should be used. In 2000, rumor spread that the restaurant next door would take over the space and refurbish it while retaining the old wooden bar. Over the past few years, the Hawai‘i Theatre Center, which occupies the land behind the Pantheon, has been trying to obtain the land where the old saloon sits in order to expand its facilities. It is another battle in the never-ending war between historical preservationists and developers. The theater center points out the fact that the Pantheon is in a sad state of deterioration and needs to be taken down. Historical preservationists would like to retain the structure and restore it. Some people suggest that the answer lies in the Nu‘uanu Avenue façade being retained to reflect what once was.
The closing of the Pantheon Bar is remembered in the movie Goodbye Paradise (1991) in which the Paradise Bar is closed in order that a developer can refurbish it as an upscale restaurant and bar. Several Hawaii Five-0 alumni appear, including Joe Moore, Elissa Dulce Hoopai, James Hong, Danny Kamekona, Dennis Chun, and the voice of our beloved Kam Fong Chun.
Campbell, Jeff. Hawaii. Ebook edition, p. 130.
Chinatown’s Rejuvenation. http://www.hawaiihistory.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=ig.page&PageID=552
Donnelly, Dave. “Renewed Nuuanu” in Hawaii Today in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. February 4, 2000. http://archives.starbulletin.com/2000/02/04/features/donnelly.html
Keany, Michael. “Austin and Pantheon Buildings” in HONOLULU Magazine. http://historichawaii.org/2014/02/19/austin-and-pantheon-buildings/
Ruby, Laura and Ross Wayland Stephenson. Honolulu Town. Mount Pleasant, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2012, p. 107.