Open just over two years, Hula Hula in Seattle, Wash., is a Hawaiian-styled, upscale karaoke lounge with a Tiki bar in the center, as well as a full stage, with smoke machines, lights and all the accoutrements of nightlife show business. Manager Jim Cummings has implemented singing contests before, but this season’s “American Idol” television show inspired him to take it to a higher level, incorporating trip giveaways, spirit sponsorship and a signature cocktail.
“We decided to promote ‘American Idol,’” he says, “so guests would come to Hula Hula to watch it on our big screen on Tuesdays. Afterwards, they can audition on the stage to become a Hula Idol.”
The format for judging is exactly like the show, with entrants’ performance, vocals, crowd response and song choice all under scrutiny. Cummings has a panel of three judges, a mix of regulars and staff members.
“When you do contests, there are always people who feel they should have won,” Cummings admits. “That’s why I incorporated a voice recognition computer that measures crowd applause in addition to having three judges. For the finals, I will have a totally fresh panel of judges who have never seen the competition before, for fairness.”
Winners each Tuesday can select their prize — a trip they can choose from a pool of 20 destinations, and everything but airfare is covered. The event is drawing an average of 175 people each Tuesday, and Cummings says it’s largely industry people who come in on their off nights. When the time comes to crown the winner of the entire competition (running as long as the “Idol” show itself), Cummings will award a larger prize in addition to the trip, but he hasn’t decided what the grand prize will be just yet.
Cummings partnered with Skyy vodka to create a signature cocktail, as well, called the Pop Idol Martini. The drink retails at half price on Tuesdays ($5), and is based on Cummings’ “Washington Berry Infusion” which involves Skyy Vodka infused with blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and marionberries.
“The Martini is the infusion plus white grape juice, Midori, lemon juice, lime juice and a little Champagne,” Cummings says. “It’s our top-selling Martini now at both Hula Hula and our other property, Tini Bigs.”