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Behind Bars: Tora Tiki puts the fun back in Victoria bar culture

Entrepreneurial trio’s unique passion project blazes a trail
Tora Tiki’s general manager Sarah Howitt serves up one of the bar’s tropical-themed cocktails. (John Atkinson)

By John Atkinson

Tora Tiki was the brainchild of two entrepreneur friends who wanted to offer Victoria’s public a different kind of cocktail bar.

Matty Conrad and Jason Pincombe, the creators behind Saint Frank’s and Wheelies Motorcycles, had the idea burning a hole inside their minds for years before they decided to bite the bullet and go for it. Also, they decided to go for it while the COVID-19 pandemic was still a major issue.

They enlisted the help of a third friend/business partner — Levi McKechnie — and in July, 2021, Tora Tiki swung open its unique doors for business.

“I think the COVID thing created a weird time-warp bubble, didn’t it,” said Conrad, who describes himself as the “more creative, go-in-and-build-the-damn-thing” kind of guy.

Conrad said he and Pincombe travel a lot with their businesses and were inspired by tiki bars in America and beyond. “I find Victoria, in particular, is very insular in its culture,” said Conrad. “In the sense that it loves its own things. But when Jason and I travel — he also owns a place out in Brooklyn and I spend a lot of time on the road — I like to think about the things I’m drawn to; the things I want to go and enjoy; the things I find interesting. And I’ve always been a fan of Tiki bars.

“There’s just something about the escapism, culture, fun and frivolity of them. There’s just this thing that’s easy to love about a Tiki bar – especially if you’re a nostalgic person, which I am. And so we didn’t have anything like that in Victoria.”

“I was fortunate enough to be invited along to open this up with them,” McKechnie said. “They’d had this idea for years and years. And we decided, in July 2021, when some of the pandemic restrictions were being lifted, we’d open up Tora Tiki.

“And we were known for doing things differently—we have our hotdog restaurant with a bar and a barber shop in the back. And so at Tora Tiki we wanted to do the same and add the karaoke room at the back of the tiki bar, which has been booked up weeks in advance since it opened. It features state-of-the-art technology and is soundproofed.”

I sampled The Zombie cocktail from an eclectic menu, featuring a blend of rums, grapefruit, housemade falernum, cinnamon syrup, lime juice and special spices.

General manager, Sarah Howitt, who prepared The Zombie, said Tora Tiki was definitely the passion project for Conrad and Pincombe. “This is the second bar they’ve opened [after Saint Franks] and I call this one ‘the favourite child’.

“I knew nothing about tiki bars when I started here, but now I think I can hold my own, having learned from self-proclaimed tiki-files who come in here and give me the lowdown. They travel globally seeking out tiki bars.”

Multi-talented Conrad, who also started and owns downtown’s Victory Barbershop said: “Jason and I had been friends a long time, were in the same circles and felt we didn’t have a place to hang out. Saint Franks solved that problem initially, and Tora Tiki revisited that feeling.”

To learn more about Tora Tiki, located at 714 Cormorant St., visit

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Tora Tiki’s general manager Sarah Howitt serves up one of the bar’s tropical-themed cocktails. (John Atkinson)