For the next few weeks one bar in our nation’s capital is cosplaying as Super Mario Bros. World 1-1, complete with a Star Power button that turns adults into “slack-jawed children.”
Drink Company has built a reputation on being home to some of Washington D.C.’s foremost mixologists. Now, until at least April 15, they’ve dressed one of their four bars to create Cherry Blossom Pop-Up Bar. Yeah yeah, there’s a beautiful cherry tree in the front. What you need to know about is the back room that’s been converted into a floor-to-ceiling celebration of the world’s greatest plumbers.
Matt Fox, Drink Company’s special projects manager and bartender at Cherry Blossom, says that as soon as the team started talking about a Japan-themed pop-up, Mario simply had to come along for the ride.
“The big thing that always happens in D.C. that brings in a lot of people in and is really indicative of the city is the Cherry Blossom Festival,” Fox said. “So, what we wanted to do is bring that feeling and that look into the bar. We also wanted to do something a little bit above and beyond that, something a little bit more special and fun.
“We were sitting brainstorming about what else can we do along with the cherry tree, and thinking about what just speaks to us as Americans looking at Japan. Pretty much all of us grew up playing Nintendo and Super Nintendo and N64. We all grew up playing Mario. Everybody around the table, their eyes lit up and they were like, ‘Yes! This makes sense. This will be awesome. Let’s see where we can roll with that.’”
The area just above has tons of floating Bob-ombs and falling mushrooms. It also features Super Mario’s signature brickwork and LED-lit question blocks. There’s even animatronic piranha plants that pop out at regular intervals. The bar back features a Lego recreation of World 1-1, and further inside there’s a mural of Bowser and a light-up, lava-patterned wall.
“The crown jewel,” says special projects coordinator Éamonn Fetherston, “would be the Star Power button, which is basically just a simple controller box with a button in it. You hit that, it triggers basically anything that’s light-up at all to start flashing in a programmed sequence. The Mario Star Power music plays, and we have a foot-tall Golden Mario that pops out of a green pipe in the ceiling.
“Basically, if you want to turn a room full of adults into just slack-jawed children staring up at the ceiling, that’s a good way to do it.”
The team behind the temporary installation says that they had no idea that the Nintendo Switch was coming out, nor have they actually seen one being played in the weeks that they’ve been open. It’s all just a happy accident.
Of course, Nintendo is notoriously protective of its intellectual property. We asked if they called to ask permission or if Drink Company plans to ask for forgiveness instead.
“I know that we have reached out to them and they know somewhat,” said Paul Taylor, senior bar manager and partner at Drink Company. “But I think we’ll keep that conversation between us.
“We hold those cards pretty close to the chest before we launch, as with all of the pop-ups that we have planned. We try to keep that close, and create a little element of mystery and excitement.”