This is how I’m defining pop up here: a cool little spot that’s either explicitly called a pop up – and therefore temporary – OR as a place that is so eccentric or specific that it’s probably doomed. If any of these turned out to be permanent, that’d be great – but I’d get out there right quick just in case. You know how it is: the dumb places (like the dumb TV shows) last forever, and the really cool places, don’t. Because we kill what we love; we’re a troubled species.
Scum and Villainy Cantina —> Star Wars!
No doubt you’ve heard of this spot in Hollywood. With drinks and bar food in a setting very much like the famous Mos Eisley cantina, your $25 ticket (yes, you need a ticket) gets you two hours and a souvenir glass… and some kind of coin thing – prob a collectible, not good for holographic space-critter chess, which doesn’t exist (yet). But it is all-ages – and younglings (under 8) do not need tickets. Apparently the music selections waver between Star Wars galaxy-appropriate and illusion-breaking contempo-pop, which is disappointing, but cosplay is highly encouraged, so if you’re there on the right night, you might actually feel like you’re on Tatooine. NO DROIDS.
Crushingly, heartbreakingly, worse than when Tyrion strangled Shae or the red wedding or when that one really talkative giant died, the Game of Thrones PUB is in… Washington DC, which is so very far from Los Angeles. It has 3 distinct rooms designed as The Red Keep, The North and The House of Black & White. There is an Iron Throne and at least one mofoing dragon that breathes fire. Themed bevs and hourly beheadings* round out the offerings. It’s perfect. Go there; drink, know things.
* A lie. No beheadings. So far.
You know what’s even better and even further away? There’s this gang called The Pop Up Geeks, and they currently have a Walking Dead bar (you knew that was a graphic novel first, right?); starting in July they’ll have Game of Thrones, called Blood and Wine, and after that… Stranger Things!!! They’ve had Harry Potter in the past and a few other themes. There’s no fire-breathing dragon (I don’t think), but for overarching ambition, to change themes every few months? Hot damn. But it’s in Scotland. Regular damn. Check out their IG.
Science might not always be literary, but you can usually find it in books – another reason to teach kids how to read. When you think “pop-up bar”, a museum is prob not the first kind of place that comes to mind, but IN CHICAGO, that’s how they do it. What a city, man. At the Field Museum (what a great place), they have a series of after hours pop ups, called Summer Late Nights: Base Camp with varying themes: Americana, Hanging Gardens and Caves, in July, August and September, respectively. Chicago knows booze, and you’re getting high quality cocktails from local all-stars, surrounded by science and history. I love you Los Angeles, but why is the midwest doing this and we’re not?? (Actually, NHM does have First Fridays, but they’re done for this year. Giving this one to Chicago.) Piling it on, Field also has a July 13 Hop To It event. This is the debut of an historical brew, recreated by Off Color Brewing, based on actual recipes excavated in China from the Late Shang/Western Zhou dynasties. Science, history, beer – surrounded by sexy smart people like yourself.
Do you read French history? Do you like Queen? Both? The Bastille Day Pop Up Dinner Party, featuring the kind of decadence you would expect from Marie Antoinette – but also based on the quintessential Freddie Mercury warblings in Killer Queen – might be your jam. Of course, you need tickets for this, but it looks pretty great – as long as you don’t mind being skewered by a peasant after you’ve indulged like a poncy, wigged, powder-faced lord/lady. Looks like it’s one day only, so gout should not be an issue. After looping Killer Queen 8 or 10 times (to set the mood), maybe they switch the event soundtrack over to Sofia’s from Marie Antoinette? It’s July 13, so get on it. There’s no better way to eat cake.
Ok, Tim Burton is not specifically bookish, he’s a movie guy, but there’s def some overlap, on account of things like Miss Peregrine and Willy Wonka and the Alice movies. If you’re a Tim Burton fan it’s very likely you’re a BIG reader. PLUS… you know you love Halloween: kindred spirits, we. So, Beetle House. There’s an LA version and a NYC version. They spent about 10 minutes on their website, but the time they saved there, they poured into the place itself. You know what to expect: goth, surreal, goofy, lots of purple, skeletons, cobwebs, velvet, pretension, Danny Elfman tunes, black light — look, I say “Burtonesque” and you know exactly what to expect. It’s either your jam or it isn’t. I think it looks like fun.
The Rabbit Hole Bar, way out in the valley somewhere, is Alice in Wonderland themed and has actually been around for a few years. The website is uh… annoying. Way too many bells and whistles for normal perusal – I mean, they put a lot of work into it, but stop with the noises – I just wanna know when you’re open. (…maybe I’m just having a bad day.) The bar itself looks pretty great: warbly furnishings, hedge maze dividers, chairs that make you feel shrunken, character-styled seating – like stepping off the ride at Disneyland – and the drinks are supposed to be top notch. Plus pool tournaments, comedy and [hack, cough cough] karaoke [barf]. This is your sustainably normal neighborhood bar, double-plussed with excellent Alice theming. This kinda thing should be the wave of the future, except that most folks couldn’t be bothered to go the extra mile.
Not a pop up, but maybe the second coolest place in Los Angeles for people like us. You can play games (obviously), consume tea (also obviously), knit, drink booze, draw, meet sexy singles (but not the gross kind, the kind like us), play more games, play bingo, workshop your writings, rent the space for your own creative or gaming splendeavors, ADOPT A CAT, cosplay, and lord knows what else – this place is amazing.
As we always say at the end of Literary Eats and Drinks posts, GO to these places. Make them successful so they will create more of them. To paraphrase the Greek: the unthemed life is not worth living.