Cyberpunk Pop-Up Bar Open in LA
Article by: Geek Girl Alyssa Kollgaard
Itís the golden age of the themed immersive pop-up bar, and the city of Los Angeles is the mecca of them all. In the past two years alone weíve been home to Good Burger
, Saved by the Bell
, Star Wars
, Coming to America
, Bobís Burgers
and even Breaking Bad
themed bars and dining experiencesĖ and thatís to say nothing of our permanent establishments like Requiem, The Hobbit
and The Cauldron
! There are a lot of fun kitschy places to have a drink or eat a meal, but of course thatís to be expected in the entertainment capital of the world. Los Angeles boasts a huge population of talented event producers, fabricators, designers, performers and visionaries across a wide array of disciplines, and the overlap with the geek community is not insignificant.
The most recent themed experience to join the list is the vaguely Bladerunner-esque cyberpunk bar entitled Neotropolis Bar
. It opened November 1st in the heart of downtown LA (only a couple miles away from actual filming locations from Bladerunner, in fact) and will run through the entire month. I got the opportunity to preview the establishment earlier this week and for fans of the genre, itís pretty exciting.
Neotropolis was incepted by Jared Butler, half of the creative team behind Wasteland Weekend and the as-of-yet-unnamed cyberpunk festival coming in 2020. Iím uncertain why Neotropolis doesnít also involve Adam Chilson, as he is the one responsible for the majority of the large-scale builds at the festivals and has been working in the theme for almost 2 decades. Even without his involvement, the props and set dec in the bar were of high quality, although it was only about 80% complete during my visit (the bar is set to include further fog and lighting effects, some additional props and more ambient actors at the time of opening).
Patrons enter through a doorway in a seedy DTLA alleyway and are greeted by LAís cyberpunk go-go queen Chromegirl decked out in full cyber attire, so the experience feels very dystopian from the get-go. The entry hall is lined with flyered advertisements for pseudo corps like Rollerball, Skycab and Rayís recycled fruit and veg. After ascending the main staircase you will arrive in the main bar area, a secondary area of the well-known Biergarten downtown. There is some custom seating and faux neon underlighting on the couches as well as the bar itself. Additional props include some a large fake fan with contrasting lights, several neon signs of the barís logo and some art deco style wall panels. There are many mannequin residents, which gives the bar a vaguely Clockwork Orange Milk Bar vibe, alongside the distinctly Bladerunner-esque elements and some original interpretations of the genre. Jared mentions casually at the bar that it was his intent to bring to life the vision of the future set forth in the 80s that never quite came to pass.
Past the bar is my favorite detail, a smoking machine that is marked out of order (but you can watch video of cyborgs and androids and fleshies enjoying the wares on the display screen). Through here, you enter a reception area Ė one we are told will be staffed by a receptionist who will lead patrons to the lower level of the bar. Connected to the reception area is an office filled with chrome mannequins and Soviet area tech. Itís unclear to me exactly what the final purpose of this room will be, unless itís to meet a Mr. Johnson for details about a milkrun needing some runners.
The star of the show is the subterranean Undercity that was added partway through the planning stage of the event when it was discovered the location had an unused below-ground area - a straight time capsule of old Los Angeles underground. The giant boilers and tunnels lend themselves perfectly to the cyberpunk aesthetic Ė and even with a trained eye in fabrication, it was challenging to tell what was existing infrastructure and what the Neotropolis team added. The final product felt very cohesive and intentional. With their electronics repairment, Fashion King outlet store faÁade, second bar and dark alleyways it definitely felt like a true urban neon dystopian city. The team uses Disneyland style tricks to fool the viewer into thinking the area is much larger than in reality; even though itís a confined space it feels like it goes on indefinitely. Weíre told that although the bar itself can accommodate 80, this space will be reserved for only 15 at a time, brought down by the receptionist in groups (as attendees must descend a very narrow spiral staircase to access it). While there isnít any music playing during the soft opening, we are told to expect the vibe down here to be louder, more aggressive, and in keeping with what you would expect for street gangs.
We get the chance to sample a couple of the drinks at the bar, designed by mixologist BC Hoffman who reimagined some popular 80s favorites into futuristic concoctions. The Neotropolis Old Fashioned consists of whiskey infused with chrysanthemum, chamomile, lemon bitters and Guinness bitter syrup Ė with a perfectly square ice cube topped off with mesquite smoke. It is a little bit much for my unrefined palette, but I appreciate the artistry nonetheless. The Thai tea inspired cocktail is more aligned to my tastes and is deliciously smooth and refreshing, while thematically at home in any cyberpunk noodle shop.
The experience itself costs a fair bit of nuyen at $82 for a 2 hour experience Ė a price tag I only now realize is a nod to the year Bladerunner had its theatrical release. The ticket includes one cocktail and a gift bag at the end, although I am uncertain what the swag will be included. There are 3 time slots for attendees each night Ė 6:30-8:30, 9:00-11:00 and 11:30-1:30am. While the Neotropolis team has plenty of experience with events, this is a different kind entirely and I wonder how the logistics of shuttling people in and out of the space will work. The bar will be full of ambient costumed actors (and of course itís encouraged that you wear theme appropriate gear as well) but it was unclear whether there will be any traditional performances. My gut is that the final product will feel vaguely hostess bar meets LARP-lite with some tourists to the fandom.
So, is it worth the price of admission? If youíve got some credsticks burning a hole in your pocket then absolutely get your ass to Mars, chummer. Right now, it does feel as though the audience will skew toward high-powered corps with deep wallets and that it is likely to price out lowly fixers and street gangers. The experience itself seems to be targeting an entirely different audience than the upcoming cyberpunk festival, which has a decade of established patrons and fans of the genre connected to it - there is a little bit of a disconnect as to who exactly this pop-up is for and it seems unlikely for there to be much crossover between the two projects (more info on the upcoming cyberpunk festival as itís released).
I donít feel like I got enough of the final experience to give a true assessment of what it will be but I do know I enjoy the work Jared does and that he is one of the most qualified residents of Los Angeles to take on the theme. With Cyberpunk 2077 right around the corner and the genre once again being thrust into the public eye, hopefully Neotropolis will find its audience and become a permanent installation in the city ala Scum and Villainy. Just in case that doesnít happen, pick up your ticket now
and be part of the limited experience.
Article: Alyssa Kollgaard
Photographers: Alyssa Kollgaard
& Kevin Mack
Follow us on:
November 05 2019