Mai Kai Kava is taking it one customer at a time

The entrance toMai Kai Kava, 17 W. University Avenue.
The entrance toMai Kai Kava, 17 W. University Avenue.

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When you’re a business that’s allowed only one customer at a time because of COVID-19, it kind of kills the mood. Mai Kai Kava Bar, 17 W. University Ave., just isn’t the same gathering spot it was a month ago when college students were still in town.


“We’re normally a coffee shop kind of place,” said Erin Hart, who co-owns Mai Kai Kava with partner Heather Casey. “Most people come here to hang out and socialize or do their homework. We also have people who typically work from home do their work here.”

But with social-distancing restrictions now in place, only one customer at a time can enter Mai Kai Kava. And once they get their order of kava, kratom or a specialty drink, they must leave and consume the beverage elsewhere.

“It’s definitely hit us very hard,” Hart said about the guidelines imposed due to the coronavirus scare. “Customers come in and say ‘I wish I could just hang out.'”

Drinks that were once served in cups resembling coconut shells are now served in lidded to-go cups. To the novice, kava is a drink made from the root of a plant in the pepper family that is native to the Pacific Islands; kratom is a ground-up leaf from a tropical evergreen tree in the coffee family. Both are said to have medicinal qualities that can help with anxiety, restlessness and insomnia. In other words, they are the ideal beverages for the crisis everyone is enduring!

Mai Kai Kava is open Monday through Saturday from noon-8 p.m. and on Sunday by request. That means that if you have a craving for kava or kratom on, say, Easter Sunday, just call 954.825.1293 and either Erin or Heather will make the short walk to their shop and fill your order. (Who does that?!)

Mai Kai Kava had closed down for a week in March before county officials determined it was an “essential” business


“A lot of our regulars haven’t been in. I think they’re just scared [of the pandemic],” Hart said. Customers can place orders at Mai Kai Kava or through as well as through DoorDash.

“We’re hanging in there,” Casey said. “It’s been tough for everyone. As long as we can take care of our [four] employees, that’s the best outcome for now. We’ll push through it.” … We encourage you to continuing patronizing locally owned establishments during this difficult time — always with your health and safety in mind.

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About the Author

Noel Leroux is the publisher of, a website dedicated to covering all things downtown. His mission is to inform, entertain and engage readers with compelling articles about arts, entertainment, and the foodie scene in Gainesville.

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