Music — Aloha Lava

Aloha Lava, Sayonara Front Runner

by Seth Hoy

A new Tiki bar to open on Fir Street

“Mele kalikimaka” is the thing to say — when a brand new Tiki bar opens in downtown Manchester. OK, “mele kalikimaka” actually translates into Merry Christmas — but it’s still a nice thing to say.

Owners Carrie Daby and Ed Bever bought the old Front Runner at 22 Fir Street in Manchester when the opportunity did the hula in front of them. Bever owns a flooring business and one of his employees let him know the Front Runner was closing.

“We went in on a whim and looked at it,” Daby said. “In the beginning we were going to keep it a gay club, but we ran the figures and didn’t think it would work out. It wasn’t real profitable from the previous owner’s perspective, so we go ahead and open it for everyone.”

The new bar, Lava Bar and Nightclub, will open on Friday, March 4, at 6 p.m.

“It was an opportunity that presented itself,” Daby continued. “We thought we could make it a profitable and fun venture. That wasn’t our main business, but we thought we could bring something fun and different to Manchester.”

And different it will be. I’m pretty sure the only other place in the area where you can find a Polynesian theme is at Chick-fil-a with their delicious Polynesian sauce. And I’m fairly certain there isn’t even a Chick-fil-a in Manchester.

So how are Daby and Bever getting “tiki” with it? For starters, they tore out the main dividing wall, opening up a 10,000-square-foot bar. They’re installing an 800-square-foot dance floor and dressing up the main bar with bamboo and thatching around the front. And much to my disappointment, Daby reports they will not feature any pink flamingos.

“It’s more of a nightclub than a bar,” Daby said, “But it’s a bar too. It’s more of a nightclub. We took down one wall which split the club in half, so now it’s open. Now you can see the bar and the dance floor from anywhere in the bar. We changed all the carpets and repainted. We’re decorating with South Pacific theme — with bamboo, thatching and posters with tropical themes.”

And what’s a dance floor without music? Daby plans to bring in new bands from Boston, Connecticut and wherever she can find them. According to Daby, she doesn’t want the same tired recycled bands that play the Manchester circuit (and you know who you are). She plans on bringing in cover bands that play ’70s, ’80s and ’90s rock and hosting several themed nights throughout the year.

“We’re looking to have a fun atmosphere,” Daby said. “We’ve gone to a lot of clubs around here and found one thing that was missing — the fun. It’s either too dark or too somber. We want to have a fun place. We want to bring something different into Manchester that’s not already here.”

“For example, on Friday, March 11, we’re bringing in an eight-piece horn band playing ’70s, ’80s and ’90s music. It’s something different and fun but they’ll still play music people like. We’re definitely going to do a lot of theme nights — like an ’80s hair band night, ’70s disco night and more creative stuff like a toga party.”

Daby and Bever did their research by visiting  Manchester bars to see what does and doesn’t work. According to Daby, they were tired of waiting for a drink in crowded bars and not having enough room to dance. While Daby acknowledges crowded is good for business, she also wants people to be comfortable, so she added more sitting areas and a bigger dance floor.

“We wanted to open a bar and [allow you to] go get a drink anytime you want one,” Daby said, “without waiting in line. We have enough room to dance and have a place to sit.”

Lava Bar and Nightclub is the only bar in Manchester that has a ballroom liquor license. Daby, a corporate lawyer for HP by day, said that the Front Runner had a private liquor license, which meant they couldn’t advertise and had to keep a membership list. The parameters of a ballroom liquor license are wider. Since Lava Bar and Nightclub can hold 500 people, they don’t have to serve food.

And Daby expressed little concern over the fact that Front Runner was a gay bar.

“It was never a concern for us,” Daby said. “We definitely want to appeal to everyone. To be honest, regardless of your orientation you would enjoy our club. Word of mouth counts for a lot in a place like Manchester. It’s small enough where everybody knows where and what bars are.”

So ladies put on your coconut bras and fellas put on your — okay, help them put their coconut bras on — and start practicing your dance moves because there’s a new Tiki bar in town.

“This bar will be different because we offer atmosphere,” Daby said. “We’re looking to create a fun environment and we want to keep the mood upbeat and cheerful — from the tropical décor to the bands.”

Lava Bar and Nightclub will be open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.

For more information, visit

- Seth Hoy

2005 HippoPress LLC | Manchester, NH