Changes afoot for North Carolina’s first kava bar

The Vanuatu Kava Bar has moved to a new location on Eagle Street next to Limones and will soon offer lunch, says owner Andrew Procyk.

A grand-opening celebration is planned for Friday, Feb. 10. “We will have a couple free kilos of kava squeezed to drink, as well as a bunch of our new food offerings for free,” says Procyk. The party and free product giveaway will start at 4 p.m. and go until “the kava and food is gone,” he says. Local music from Max Melner Orchestra, Space Medicine and more will begin around 8 p.m., and discounted drinks and specials will run throughout the night.  “It’s our way of saying thanks to a community that has let us grow to this point. We are really excited about the new space and its potential, and hope to see lots of new faces,”  Procyk says.

After the grand opening, the kava bar will offer extended hours, until 1 a.m. on weekends, and from 11 a.m. until 1 a.m. on weekdays. Vanuatu closes at midnight on Mondays.

Procyk recently brought a chef on board, and a full lunch menu will be available from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. on weekdays. “We recently hired Max Melner, who worked at the Westville Pub for years, made quite a tasty shrimp and grits and plays at their jam,” he says. “We are confident he can take our foodstuffs to the next level, as well as play an amazing show now and then.”

A limited food menu will also be available for the remainder of the bar’s business hours. Procyk reports that the kava bar will begin serving a “Melanesian-style” brunch on Sundays beginning in March.

The press release:

Vanuatu Kava Bar has reopened at 15 Eagle St. after closing the original south Lexington Avenue location in late December. Numerous other changes are afoot for the local business with lower prices, new and stronger drink offerings, an even more laid-back atmosphere, longer hours and a vegetarian-based lunch menu featuring island items as well as seitan gyros and tacos, tempeh sandwiches, at an average price point of $5. Freshly back in Asheville from a trip to Vanuatu, Andrew Procyk, who co-owns the business with wife Keely Flow, is looking forward to implementing his new inspirations.

“While experiencing fresh kava in Vanuatu, I had a breakthrough about its potential,” says Procyk. “The connections I made there have now allowed us to achieve that potential, and drop our per-drink prices at the same time.” Andrew was featured twice in the Vanuatu Daily Post during his trip. “Ni-Vans (Native Vanuatu) were floored to learn that kava was taking a hold in the U.S. in its traditionally consumed form,” he says. “It is a major crop for them, and the U.S. is a huge market, so we are putting a lot of money directly into the villages of the growers by doing what we do, and they are understandably excited about it.”

Vanuatu is one of the archipelago nations of Melanesia, in the South Pacific, just west of Fiji. It is the home of world’s strongest kavas and the likely birthplace of its domestication, boasting 100-plus varieties of the root. “Vanuatu is to kava what France is to fine wine,” as Keely puts it. Native cultures there and throughout the South Pacific have drunk kava for millennia.  It is used both for social occasions and religious ceremonies, as the kavalactones, the active constituents, impart euphoria, relaxation and essentially a lovely buzz – one some believe allows them to communicate with their dead ancestors.

In Vanuatu, Procyk met with Dr. Vincent Lebot, one of the most published kava researchers in the world, viewed the growing process on the outer island of Tanna, and met with members of government agencies to discuss the implementation of quality-control for exports. “They are already essentially fair-trade because of their mandated minimum per-kilo price, and organic by virtue of their purity law. The next step would be to have outgoing shipments tested for chemo types, to verify the cultivar before export. This would not only ensures the product is contaminant free, but would guarantee the specific type/cultivar being exported.”

Several new value-added products, developed by Asheville’s Vanuatu Kava Bar’s kava source, stand to bring even more money into the less-developed nation. Keely explains, “We have the first water-soluble, water-based extract of kava that can be put into any drink. Pure relaxation with no more ‘rooty’ taste.”

The new location is decorated with handmade pecky bald cypress furniture that Procyk crafted,  including a half-ton, 12-foot table and benches that are the communal centerpiece of the new bar. An equally massive reinterpretation of Gauguin’s “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? ” by local artist Anne Marie McAllister will be hung for the grand opening. VKB smacks of rustic sophistication, conjuring island relaxation sans umbrella drinks or leis.

The Vanuatu Kava Bar is located at 15 Eagle St. 505-8118.




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