Garrett County Government - Department of Business Development

Honi Honi Celebrates 50th Birthday This Year

Last Updated on Jul 1, 2019 at 10:32am | Tourism & Recreation

Article courtesy of NCWV Media - The Republican. Staff Writer: Brenda Ruggiero. Submitted photo.
A local bar celebrated its 50th birthday at the beginning of the year.
Honi Honi Bar, located at 19745 Garrett Highway next to Deep Creek UNO, was originally founded by Jim Delligatti and had its first liquor license issued in 1969.
Originally from Pittsburgh, Delligatti always had a residence at Deep Creek Lake. In later years, he went on to found and own UNO Pizzeria & Grill, Arrowhead Market and the Garrett 8 Cinemas.
Outside of Garrett County, he is famous for being the inventor of the McDonald’s Big Mac.
Delligatti was also a frequent visitor to Florida, where one of his favorite places had a drink called the Honi Honi.
He had a vision for a sister business to the Pizza Pub, which was his restaurant on Deep Creek Lake at the time.
The Honi Honi began as a tiki hut with a Polynesian theme on a gravel pad in basically the same location as the bar is today.
A “honi” is a Polynesian greeting in which two people greet each other by pressing noses and inhaling at the same time.
Today, the Honi Honi name is nationally trademarked and registered.
Delligatti passed away on Nov. 28, 2016, and his son Michael Delligatti became the owner of his father’s businesses.
From the original hut, the Honi Honi grew over the years to include a full indoor service bar, outside deck and stage, indoor stage, an apparel shop and a full lawn with a playground and signature elephant and whale.
A full line of apparel is available online and in the Honi Honi shop.
Originally, indoor bands set up where the apparel shop is located now. The indoor stage and apparel shop were built 13 years ago. About 15 years ago, the outdoor bar was built to replace the “Gorilla Express” trailer and outdoor bar.
Local Catholic mass was held on Sundays at the Honi for many years.
Thunderhill was the house band (circa 1971) that played every weekend in the beginning.
“We now have a rotating array of regional bands with live entertainment every Friday and Saturday night year-round,” said Bill Ingram, operations manager. “Saturday afternoons in the summer are our most popular time.”
Michael Delligatti plays in the current house band, Honi House Band, as well as a duo called Campfire Gypsies.
During the summer months, there is live music on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Family-friendly karaoke is featured on Thursday nights in the summer.
“Generations of families have spent their Saturday afternoons on the lawn at the Honi listening to the bands,” Ingram said. “Generations have taken pictures on the elephant.”
In season, the bar averages 25 to 30 employees. Phil Rook is the longest standing employee at over 20 years. Mike Smith, general manager, has been there for 12 years, and Julie Meyer Thompson has been the manager for 10 years.
“Many local professionals started behind our bar,” Ingram said.”
The Honi Honi is open at noon every day from Memorial Day through Labor Day. In the off season, the bar is open Thursday and Friday at 3 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at noon (Sundays only through football season, featuring the NFL Sunday Ticket).
Deck dining is available from mid-June through Labor Day, with bar food service offered at other times. Food service is available through UNO’s.
“The Honi has become the ultimate destination when people visit Deep Creek,” Ingram said. “We often hear people say that the first thing people ask when they heard they went to Deep Creek is, ‘Did you go to the Honi?’”
The Deep Creek Dunk is in its 21st year at the Honi, with upward of 3,000 people in attendance on that day.
“Well over $1.5 million has been raised thus far,” Ingram said. “Dunk donations fully fund our local special Olympics budget.”
A Thunderhill reunion was held five years ago, joined by the Honi House Band.
“Other popular annual events include our Summer Pig Roast and Luau, Deep Creek Talent Show, Family Fun Day, Halloween Party, Christmas Tree Lighting and New Year’s Eve Party,” Ingram said.
Throughout the summer, a Sunday Social Day is offered with outdoor games.
“We truly are a family-friendly bar,” Ingram said. “We have a playground for kids and lawn games in the summer including corn hole and ring toss.”
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