Breaking News: Pop-Up replaces Speakeasy as the most overused and least understood descriptor for a bar.
Over the past few years the BarLifeUK office (shed) has been inundated with press releases about a ‘new speakeasy bar opening’. They have always been greeted by us with derision, anger and the swearing to never visit.
We have nothing against speakeasies. We love speakeasies. Only they never fucking were. They weren’t even Dive Bars, which we love a little more. They were small(ish) bars, normally in a basement which saved money on lightbulbs, took themselves far to seriously and probably dressed the bar staff in braces.
For many a year we enjoyed hating this term, we are after all a couple of grumpy old bastards, but it has been usurped. The final nail in the coffin of the pop-up bar came this week when a press release containing the following line appeared in our inbox:
‘one of London’s longest standing pop-ups will be celebrating their lease extension this Spring’
‘Longest standing pop-ups’ is an contradiction in the realm of ‘Donald Trumps best idea’, ‘My favourite night at ECC’ or ‘Simon Rimmer’s most groundbreaking revelation’.
The whole chuffing point of a pop-up is that it pops up. It’s right there in it’s fucking name. For it to pop up it must pop down. If it doesn’t do you know what it is? It’s a bar, you massive spunk trumpet.
What is it with this industry at the moment that a bar can’t just open that is a bar? It appears that to open a bar you need a PR company who seemingly only earn their money by using words they barely understand to describe a bar they will never go to and drinks they don’t think sound as tasty as a Hooch.
As infuriating and wrong as the phrase ‘longest standing pop-ups’ is in that press release is, the really disturbing part is ‘one of’. One of? The bar in question has been open 15 months, how many are there that are older than that?
Let us, at this point, make it clear with have nothing against pop-ups or indeed PR companies representing bars. When done well both are exceptionally effective. PR companies have shown themselves to be hugely successful at helping raise the profile of bars, especially if said bar wants to win an award of some kind.
Pop-ups have proved themselves to be great at showcasing the talents of bartenders as owners and allowed these people to gain funding to open their own venues that probably would have eluded them otherwise. They are also fantastic as a way to trial a new concept or menu style before taking the big and not inexpensive leap of opening a bar based on these ideas.
Pop-ups allow people to push the envelope, try unusual ideas. We have had some fantastic experiences at pop-ups (we’ve had some absolute miserable failures mind you) and some have gone on to become great full time bars.
If your pop-up is a success celebrate by opening a proper bar, don’t just keep using the phrase pop-up because it sounds cool. It’s not, and if there is one thing we know about it is not being cool.