Ten Questions with Citizen Salon

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Text and photo by Nicole Furtado

1. What is your favorite thing about Chinatown?

The small business community we have here, and the way we all support each other.

2. What's the most common haircut?

Long layers are the most common request in any salon. The new look from LA and New York, however, is “done-undone.” It’s very loose, understated, and has a very bohemian and lackadaisical style to it. 

3. What's the craziest color you've had to do?

ALL OF THEM ON ONE PERSON. We’re talking gold, pink, and orange, you name it. The application and balance of it was very important.

4. If Chinatown was a haircut, what would it be?

The color would be Oscar the Grouch green, with a shaved-side undercut, and just completely disheveled but fancy at the same time.

5. How has Chinatown changed since you've worked here?

I started working in Chinatown at another salon in 2001 or 2002. You’d see drug deals and prostitution happening out front. Nowadays it’s a lot more polished, yet Chinatown still maintains a sense of creativity, youth, and fun. I see the future of Chinatown being inundated with corporate businesses making it more commercial; us small business owners are going to have to fight for our businesses.

6. Where's your go-to for shopping in Chinatown?

I LOVE Roberta Oaks and she’s a client here at Citizen. I go there for clothing like aloha T’s.

7. What are your customers like?

The idea behind Citizen Salon is that everybody's welcome. We’re located in between downtown and Chinatown, so we get lawyers and other professionals. At the same time, we get to do haircuts like crazy purple hair with a punk rock look. Our mix of clients is vast and diverse.

8. Describe Chinatown in five words or less.

 Raw, real, rough, refined, and a little ridiculous.

9. If Chinatown were a drink, what would it be?

It would be spilt on the floor.  

10. Where do you like to go out in Chinatown?

I went to Encore Saloon recently and I loved it.




Cinco De Mayo Block Party 2017

Hawaii's Hispanic Community celebrates Cinco De Mayo with a Celebration Block Party event on First Friday. After 10 years, this free event is coming back to Chinatown where it all began. The Block Party starts at 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. and continues throughout the nightclubs and bars of Chinatown till 2 a.m.




Party in the Streets on St. Patrick's Day in Chinatown

Thousands of miles away from where it all started, Hawai'i might be the place where you least expect such a celebration for St. Patrick's Day. In the center of downtown Honolulu are four iconic Irish bars, perfect for a bar crawl, along with live music and a block party beginning at 6 p.m. Don't forget to wear your green! For more details on the event, click here

CHINATOWNNOW St. Patricks Day Block Party



Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with These Four Bars and a Block Party

What makes a pub Irish? Our writer asked this question only to be met with derision. Apparently it is an attitude, an Irish flag hanging on the wall, the sound of live Celtic rock and breaking glass, and/or the cloud of cigarette smoke that still lingers in the air. You name it—ideally with something starting in “Mc”or “Oʻ”—and St. Patrick bless you, it is done. Below, meet the four Irish pubs that call Honolulu’s urban core home.

Text by Harrison Patino

O’Toole’s Irish Pub

With its old brick walls adorned in Red Sox memorabilia, O’Toole’s Irish Pub wouldn't look too out of place in the streets of Boston. And yet, at the corner of Nu‘uanu Avenue and Marin Street, O’toole’s has been a Chinatown staple for decades.

Known for its rich history just as much as its rich selection of whiskeys, O’Toole’s is nearly as old as the neighborhood that houses it. Built with brick used as ballast from incoming merchant ships in the 1890s O’Tooles was originally a warehouse and stable for the Foster’s Boatbuilding Company before the skyscrapers and six-lane highways sprang up.

Now, O’Toole’s is just as much a center for Irish culture as it is a classic neighborhood bar. The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick—Hawai’i’s largest Irish cultural group—convene at the bar’s connected meeting hall, while in the bar, live music plays nearly every day of the month to the accompaniment of Irish beers on tap and healthy selection of Irish whiskey.

The bar itself is owned and operated by veteran Honolulu barman Bill Comerford, who also owns and operates Anna O’Briens, Kelley O’Neil’s, and the Irish Rose Saloon. Comerford is staunch in his belief that Irish drinking culture is right at home with the aloha spirit, noting the emphasis on hospitality that the two share.

As for the prevalence of Irish bars in the Chinatown neighborhood alone, Comerford doesn’t think this is anything too out of the ordinary. “You’ll find the Irish operating bars everywhere. Comerford jokes. “Everywhere in the world, you can go to Moscow, you can go to China, you can go to Japan, and you’re going to find Irish bars. It’s just what we do, and we do ʻem better than anyone else.”

O’Tooles is located at 902 Nuuanu Ave.


Murphy’s Bar and Grill

If O’Tooles is the working-class neighborhood joint, Murphy’s is the businessman’s bar, or at least it looks that way. Boasting stained glass, antique beer advertisements, whiskey posters, and various bits of collectible Irish ephemera, the place feels like stepping into a bustling uptown bar from the ʻ30s or ʻ40s.

Built in 1890 as the Royal Saloon—and of the same brick ballast as O’Toole’s, across the street—the building possessed one of the original six liquor licenses on the island and has been either a bar or restaurant for the entirety of its existence. The place even withstood the great fire of 1900 that decimated the rest of Chinatown.

While Murphy’s is a great place to grab a drink, it also boasts a menu of classic bar food and traditional Irish meals like shepherd's pie and corned beef and cabbage, all the better when washed down with a pint of Guinness.

The building is also said to be haunted, but Don Murphy, the bar’s namesake and owner since 1987, doesn’t lend any credence to these rumors. As far as he’s concerned, Murphy’s is just a neighborhood spot that’s been doing the same thing for years. 

Murphy’s is located at 2 Merchant St.



JJ Dolan’s, a dimly lit neighborhood staple, has been serving up cold beer and New York style pizza for the better part of a decade. And while there is no JJ Dolan, co-owners John Joseph “JJ” Niebuhr and Danny Dolan are Chinatown through and through.

The bar came to be when Dolan, the manager of O’Toole’s at the time, and Niebuhr, who worked at Murphy’s barbacking and making pizza (when it was still on the menu), decided to team up and start an Irish bar of their own. After all, “Every town needs an Irish bar,” as Dolan puts it. “Or a few of ʻem.”

As it turns out, pizza and beer make a good couple. Since 2008, JJ Dolan’s has been warmly received by Chinatown regulars, especially when St. Patrick’s Day rolls around, though beyond changing all the taps to Irish beer, they don’t do much in preparation. And as far as Dolan is concerned, they don’t need to. “We just clear everything out and get ready for the madness.”

JJ Dolan’s is located at 1147 Bethel St.


Ferguson’s Irish Pub

Before Ferguson’s was the beloved Irish pub it is today, it was The Clubhouse, a zany neighborhood bar with a parrot that hung around the rafters. When John Ferguson bought the downtown Honolulu property in 2000, he cleaned the place up, got rid of the parrot, and turned it into Ferguson’s Irish Pub.

When Ferguson passed away in 2011, his good friends and fellow barmen Don Murphy, Danny Dolan, and JJ Niebuhr took it upon themselves to keep the bar running as he would’ve wanted. As a result, the bar, housed on the ground floor of the stately Dillingham Transportation Building, was remodeled and revamped. What stands now is a classy, upscale establishment with a beautiful, fully stocked bar and a spacious courtyard area—a labor of love and a fitting tribute to the bar’s namesake.

Ferguson’s is located at 729 Bishop St.


The 29th Annual St Patrick’s Day Block Party takes place at “Honolulu’s Irish Corner,” aka Nuuanu Avenue and Merchant Street, on Thursday, March 17 starting at 6 p.m. Live music by Doolin Rakes and Pirahna Brothers. For more information, visit