New nightlife coming to downtown Walla Walla, Aloha Sushi gets a bar

caitlinhardee

With the closing of local café Wildberries, located just off Main Street, neighboring Aloha Sushi Bar seized the chance to expand its premises and offer Walla Walla a new nightlife opportunity. The old café will be connected to Aloha Sushi and will be called the Longboard Lounge. Aloha Sushi owner Paul Mobley is excited by the opportunity to expand, and was eager to share his plans for the new bar.

“We want to be open before Christmas but certainly we’ll be having a New Year’s Eve party here,” he said. “We’re looking at seating about twenty people, serving hard alcohol, and staying open until eleven at night.”

The lounge will feature a flat-screen TV, providing customers evening football games and, with luck, Japanese game shows. Mobley also intends to continue the decor theme of Aloha Sushi.

“People have requested TV in Aloha Sushi right now, but that’s just not part of my plan –– I want people to focus on conversation when they’re dining for sushi, with the chefs and with their dining companions,” said Mobley. “The decor will be a Hawaiian kind of theme: sophisticated, kind of a Ralph Lauren, Tommy Bahama look, with palm trees and sea grass.”

Mobley also explained the circumstances surrounding his desire to acquire added space for Aloha Sushi’s clientele.

“We have a tendency to turn people away on the weekends because they don’t make reservations and we can’t accommodate them quickly enough, so we want a place for them to relax while they’re waiting for sushi seats,” he said.

Mobley plans for the lounge to offer a range of nightlife activities.

“We’ll be able to offer sushi in there, and being able to have that in a bar setting, with TV, might be attractive to some of the older generation,” he said. “We’re probably going to do a karaoke night once or twice a week, maybe do some sumo wrestling with [fat] suits once a month. We want to keep it fun and lively.”

Concerning the closing of Wildberries, Mobley spoke highly of owner Judith Henderson’s culinary genius, and explained the circumstances surrounding her decision to close the café and move back to her original base of Dayton. The café and catering company owner had hoped to find new market opportunities in Walla Walla but was forced to close because changes in the local industry.

“When she got here, within three months of being here, four or five other catering companies started up, so that really impacted her. She struggled pretty much the whole time she was here, because the catering business was just over-saturated,” he said.

Beyond the Longboard Lounge’s target of a New Year’s opening party, Mobley intends to use the lounge for a broad range of events and celebrations.

“It’ll give us more flexibility to do parties and those kind of events, high school reunions, private events, etc. I wouldn’t be opposed to live music––we’re really friendly with the Blues Society downtown; we support them quite a bit, so we’ll probably be doing some blues nights, open mic nights and karaoke certainly.”

Aloha Sushi’s customers are cautiously enthusiastic about the lounge.

“I think the area needs something with a little twist to it,” said Jillice Beko.

“As long as it doesn’t spoil the mood of the restaurant itself,” interjected fellow diner Jon Jewett. “If it turns into some twenty-one and over romp, it would be kind of annoying.”

“But we could sample that,” said Beko. “As long as it doesn’t interfere with what we all love.”