The Stranger Things bar pop-up wraps this weekend in Logan Square after a six-week run and the lines of fans figures to be even longer along Milwaukee Avenue. The Upside Down will host its final customers on Sunday leaving no conflict with Netflix over permissions or licensing to use elements from the 1980s-era TV show. The pop-up’s operators from Emporium Arcade Bar already have a concept to replace it — it’s Halloween themed and called House of the Dead. The haunted house opens on (dun dun dun)...Friday, Oct. 13 at 2367 N. Milwaukee Ave.
The Upside Down, which began on Aug. 19, has become a viral phenomena and has hit a sweet spot for fans pumped up about the TV show’s second season that debuts on Oct. 27. Sci-Fi fans love Easter Eggs, and the pop-up had plenty of those beloved hidden references throughout along with TV-quality set pieces and a collection of cocktails inspired by the show.
Saturdays have been the busiest days for the pop-up, but since the Netflix letter was released on Sept. 17, Emporium’s Jared Saul — who oversees the pop-up — said it’s been even busier. Overall, the longest wait has been an hour. Saul maintained that they always intended to close on Oct. 1 so they could quickly open the new Halloween pop-up. However, The Upside Down’s success had them toying with the idea of extending into October. Netflix’s cease-and-desist letter made their decision for them.
“We're very thankful that Netflix allowed us to see this project through to our original end date,” Saul said. “They could have been much less cool than they were.”
Emporium’s been doing a Halloween-themed party for the last three years. But this year, buoyed by fan reaction to The Upside Down, they’re going to go bigger. Saul promised that The House of Dead will be “on a much grander and more interactive scale.”
Returning to The Upside Down, Saul agreed that an “authenticity in the bar design,” “dedication to detail,” and unique drinks that made The Upside Down a success. He’s dealt with passionate fanbases before, as prior to Stranger Things, Emporium hosted a Run the Jewels hip-hop pop-up complete with an appearances by Killer Mike. The props were so authentic that a table bolted to the ceiling featured actual Eggos. The waffles are a favorite of Eleven, the show’s resident telekinetic.
“Everything is in pretty great shape still,” Saul said with a laugh. “We think a patron with sticky fingers may have walked out with a sign, but other than that everybody has been very respectful of the space which is great for everybody who wants to see it as it was intended to be seen.”
While flickering lights, signs, and visual art created a creepy environment, music also played a vital role. Staff carefully selection songs from the 1980s, introducing New Wave and post punk to an enthusiastic sect of millennials.
“It's been cool to see some younger patrons enjoying stuff like The Smiths or Echo & The Bunnymen and even having some folks inquire about the music,” Saul said.
As The Upside Down closes up, Saul and his crew remain grateful for fan support. They’re also eager to move on to their next project, as they learned a lot over the last month and a half.
“We were definitely not quite ready the first weekend for such an amazing turnout and ran out of some cocktails we had prepped,” Saul said. “Since that first weekend, we've been very well prepared!”