Refreshed Craft & Commerce To Introduce Tiki-Inspired 'Secret' Bar Concept False Idol | An Interview With Tiki-God Martin Cate

Martin Cate
December 30, 2015

Tapping one of today’s foremost authorities on rum and the current tiki-cocktail movement, Southern California hospitality collective CH Projects (Polite Provisions, Noble Experiment) is partnering with bar owner, educator and author, Martin Cate, to launch bar concept False Idol in San Diego. Secluded within Craft & Commerce restaurant in Little Italy and slated to open doors in spring 2016, False Idol will allow Cate - who built the largest rum selection in the United States at his internationally acclaimed bar, Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco - to spread his passion to an all-new, Polynesian pop inspired tiki temple. In anticipation of the opening of False Idol, we interviewed Cate about his love for tiki, his inspiration to venture into America's Finest City and more!

Hailing from San Francisco, what inspired you to branch out into San Diego of all places?

Cate: San Diego is a fantastic city that I've had the pleasure of visiting regularly for years now. I love the food, the climate, and the people. San Diego's combination of maritime tradition and rich Polynesian Pop history (as exemplified by the restaurants and architecture of Shelter Island) makes it the perfect setting for a new tiki bar.

I know that you are no stranger to San Diego and have been coming down here for some time for Tiki Oasis - what are some of your favorite dining and entertainment destinations in America's Finest City?

Cate: Well, I of course love your fish tacos and burritos as much as the next guy, and I may be biased, but I really love Ironside. But I have a great fondness for some of your classic dining spots, like Old Trieste, Red Fox, and especially the Turf Supper Club - no visit is complete without a steak and a Manhattan at the Turf. And I miss Albie's already.

Do you plan to introduce a secret rum/spirits society to San Diego through False Idol like you have with The Rumbustion Club in San Francisco? If so, do you have more details? A name?

Cate: We've got some outstanding surprises in store for everyone.

What can we expect from the design of False Idol?

Cate: All I can tell you at this point is that I'm excited to be working with one of the top designers in tiki, Bosko, to create something really memorable and dramatic.

We know you are a cocktail and spirits history buff. How will history play a role in False Idol? Will there be an educational component to the tiki bar?

Cate: I am thrilled, as with all of my projects, to share with our guests how special and unique this period of cocktails & design was in American history. Since so much was destroyed by the end of the 70s, revisiting the era offers a fresh opportunity for reappraisal while also delighting newcomers. 

How do you think your experience in the logistics field translated to building your tiki empire? If so, how?

Cate: Nothing too specific, but it certainly gave me a heightened appreciation for organization and creating efficient procedures - skills that would benefit any small business operator!

Do you think that the tiki-theme will be more welcomed in San Diego because of it's beach-y atmosphere?

Cate: I think there will be some of that, but classic tiki is less about the beach than the elegant, romantic, and escapist feel of a torch-lit twilight escape on a distant atoll.

San Diego is a thriving craft beer city. Do you think craft beer has a place in the tiki world? If so, how/where? Any chance you'll be creating a menu of beertails to embrace that sector of the industry?

Cate: I'm looking forward to working with Consortium Holdings Beverage Director Anthony Schmidt to make a menu that will encompass both classic and contemporary exotic cocktails- so who knows!

With Cate at the forefront of the spirits program alongside CH beverage director Anthony Schmidt, CH Projects, who is known for its visually striking concepts, will bring together a dream team of Southern California-based design collaborators to create a faux-tropical paradise for False Idol. While specifics on the bar’s elaborate interior layout are currently under wraps, CH enlists the help of respected tiki artist and designer, Bosko Hrnjak, alongside award-winning designer and fabricator, Paul Basile of Basile Studio - who is recognized for the innovative design found in many of CH’s restaurants and bars including Soda & Swine, Polite Provisions, Ironside Fish & Oyster and UnderBelly.

"San Diego has long been one of my favorite cities, and I'm excited to help bring a fully-realized tiki project to this thriving community,” says Martin Cate. “With the operational expertise and fantastic creativity of the CH group, along with the legendary art of tiki pioneer Bosko, we can't wait to welcome everyone to an unforgettable experience."

With the build out underway, the addition of False Idol will transform Craft & Commerce’s Little Italy real estate into a distinctly unique dual-concept. While the existing venue itself is also in the midst of a heavy remodel and expansion to make room for the new tiki bar and to also welcome the culinary program of newly appointed Executive Chef JoJo Ruiz, False Idol is anticipated to open doors alongside the re-launch of Craft & Commerce, which will also happen this spring.