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New kava bar finds its roots in downtown Phoenix

Lacuna Kava Bar is among the only kava bars in Arizona and is located at the former ASU "Project Space" Art Museum

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Lacuna Kava Bar owner Chase Brendle pours a sample of a drink in downtown Phoenix, Arizona, on Wednesday, March 13, 2019.

Owners of the building that housed the former ASU “Project Space” Art Museum are breathing new life into the site with the downtown Phoenix Lacuna Kava Bar, which will open on April 5.  

With its roots in Arizona, Lacuna Kava Bar offers kava and CBD beverages as well as an assortment of foods. 

Kava, also known as the “intoxicating pepper,” is a plant-based, psychoactive national drink of Fiji and has been used in Pacific Island cultures throughout history for its relaxing and meditative effects. 

Lacuna Kava Bar is among the only of its kind in Arizona, and owner, Chase Brendle, said that he hopes to bring a social aspect to a drink that is foreign to the state.

“Part of what kava is, it’s a culture and connection of people in a healthy way,” Brendle said. “Here, we use it as a social beverage to connect with other people.” 

Lacuna Kava Bar offers drinks from $6 to $14 and caters to customers who are above the age of 18. Costs vary between sizes and flavors. 

Kava tea is derived from the root of the kava plant and was once only a drink for those of high status. It has been ingrained in Pacific Island culture for over 3,000 years. Traditionally served in a coconut shell, kava became a popular drink at social events and has gained popularity in Western culture through kava bars. 

Numbness in the mouth and tongue is not uncommon when drinking kava, and according to Brendle, the drink is self-limiting. 

“Mother nature is brilliant and has put in some excellent checks and balances for us,” he said. “If you drink too much, you might get tired and lose the social, talkative aspect of it.” 

Brendle said that as the only kava bar in Arizona, he looks forward to bringing a new experience and culture to the Phoenix community. Paying homage to the building’s history, Lacuna Kava Bar will host art nights on first Fridays. 

Read more: The ASU Art Museum 'Project Space' to close April 2018

“It was an art gallery to begin with, it always has been — the mural is still on the wall from the original owner of the building,” Brendle said. 

Brendle said that he has had experiences involving kava and art that would have been less impactful had he been drinking alcohol instead. 

“It’s really cool to have something that each month is renewed and changed," he said. "It speaks to the context of what a kava bar is. It’s about growth, change, bringing new thought. Why not incorporate that on the walls as well?”

He said that by utilizing kava and art in the same space, it encourages a “higher level of conversation and connection.”

Shannon Ludington, an ASU alum who had art displayed at the ASU “Project Space” Art Museum when it was still active, said that the incorporation of the building’s history with its current use provides artists with another well-appreciated venue for artists to display their work.   

“A lot of coffee and tea shops pair really nicely with art exhibits, especially because they’re such welcoming spaces,” Ludington said. 

Located on third street, Lacuna Kava Bar’s location may be an advantage for the new business. 

David Pijawka, a professor in the school of Geographical Science and Urban Planning, said that the ever-changing scene of Roosevelt Row can offer a wide range of visitors. 

“Something that plays a big role in the success of a business is the age level of people in the area, demand for the product, and the location,” Pijawka said. “The demand for businesses down there is growing, and there’s a lot of activity in that area.” 

Brendle said he hopes kava will provide people with a health conscious and enlightening experience.

"People historically have used it in a more spiritual way, I want to bring a more social element to that as well," he said.  

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