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Cosmopolitan venue brewing Next Door

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Cosmopolitan venue brewing Next Door

Chris Kahunahana, Miguel Innis and Sergio Goes inside Next Door on Hotel Street, the site of the Cinema Paradise Independent Film Festival opening Friday.

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What was a gutted 4,000-square-foot exposed-brick building on Hotel Street a year ago -- a former brothel and adult video store -- is being converted into what its new tenants hope will be a cool combo of cinema lounge and concert hall.

Next Door, at 43 N. Hotel St., will host its soft opening this weekend as the new venue for the annual Cinema Paradise Independent Film Festival, which has had a nomadic existence since it was born as the Underground Film Festival in 1995.

Sergio Goes, festival co-director with Chris Kahunahana and managing business partner with Miguel Innes and Kahunahana, said the grand opening will likely take place on New Year's Eve.

As for now the festival's $350,000 investment is starting to see some progress. The concrete has been poured for its 40-foot bar, the electricity's on and a working sound system is being installed.

The area's makeover from an urban sleaze corridor into a cosmopolitan arts-and-culture district between Nuuanu Avenue and Smith Street (as designated by the city and county in 2003) has been a slow process, something discussed for more than 30 years by artists, city planners and landlords, but something of a hip downtown scene is finally taking shape -- even with the recent demise of King Street's Studio 1 Art Gallery.

The focus shifted over to Hotel Street with the opening of the thirtyninehotel gallery-performance space-club next door to Next Door and the opening of the design gallery In To across the street from the two. Plus, Indigo restaurant co-owner Dave Stewart will be opening Bar 35 soon to form a hub of activity.

THIS PLACE has been under construction for three months, day and night, said Goes of Cinema Paradise's new home. "This is something Chris and I have been dreaming about for a long time. We've been part of this growing Chinatown scene since the mid-'90s with the Hawaii Underground Film Festival."

Chris Kahunahana peers down on the space that he hopes will add an urban, neo-soul flavor to Hotel Street, similar to clubs and galleries in New York and San Francisco.

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After the film festival wraps on July 1, Next Door will stay open for film screenings and art shows booked through November, Goes said. "The Collab Project" will be the first of the art shows, a mixed-media installation featuring the work of the Barnstormers, in town recently as artists-in-residence at the Contemporary Museum. While here, the group created the mural "Psychopus" at the Makiki Heights museum. Joining them will be New York-based video artist -- that's his tag -- and local artist Joseph K. Pa'ahana.

This is the kind of thing we usually expect to see in places like New York and San Francisco, Goes said.

It's a synergy of art and film, Innes added. "We want to become part of the international circuit of art, film and music."

Like Hong Kong and Berlin, chimed in Kahunahana. "We're going to be in line as one of the next cities that provide quality entertainment.

Using this space, we want to book everything, not just deejays. We're going for an eclectic mix. Whatever entertainment is being presented, it will create the space of Next Door.

The trio also want to install a full-fledged, multipurpose sound system, complete with acoustic paneling. "We're flying in an engineer from San Francisco to help design a system that can serve three functions: theatrical, club and live performance," Goes said.

Also in the works is in an upper-level mezzanine for VIPs.

This has also given us an opportunity to employ a bunch of friends to help create this space, Goes said.

It's a big collaborative effort, added Kahunahana. "All kinds of talent is gravitating here to help us. There's even a guy from New York who's helping us do the bar menu."

It seems help is falling from the sky when we need it, said Goes, "so we know we're doing something right."

***Honolulu is really coming along big time with its hip entertainment, arts and cultural scene... not bad for a city under a million. ;)

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