Northwest Arkansas is about to have the holly-jolliest of holiday seasons: famed local kitschy pop-up bar Holidaze is back for a second year, this time at the Walton Arts Center in downtown Fayetteville.
Created last year by Maxine’s Tap Room and Leverett Lounge’s Hannah Withers and Ben Gitchel, along with the expertise of Richard Gathright, the successful holiday pop-up bar is taking over the Joy Pratt Markham Gallery, Sudduth Garden Room, Bradberry Amphitheater and Rose Garden at the Walton Arts Center. Those who attended the first pop-up bar last year may remember being packed into the Center Street space. This year’s move gives Holidaze more space for social distancing and spotlights Withers’s affinity for vintage holiday decor.
The Idle Class spoke with Withers about the magical decision to bring Holidaze back for another year, visiting expectations, and, of course, the drink menu.
When did you decide Holidaze could be a realistic possibility this year? What made you decide to go for it?
Ben and I were literally trying to sketch out how to do this in a parking lot outside downtown (Fayetteville) when Shannon (Thomas) from Walton Arts Center reached out to us and asked if we had a game plan. It’s such a big venue, and we were a little intimidated. But it became clear very quickly that this is the absolute best place to hold an event right now. We have a massive amount of room outside, they have a beautiful facility, and they have a team of incredibly excited people who have not worked much since March.
We’re excited that this aligns with our mission to give back to our community, and it’s particularly important to us that we are sharing a goal of helping people who work in our performing arts world and hospitality industry.
What can visitors expect from this year’s festivities as opposed to last year?
We’re really happy that we’re going to have a functioning reservation system! They won’t be required, but that will help us control the flow of what we can see and how to do it safely. Of course social distancing and mask-wearing will be required, and unfortunately, we won’t be using our vintage glassware this year. We will save them for another season. We are incredibly grateful that the City of Fayetteville offers a compostable option for to-go cups, which we hope people will utilize to enjoy the Lights of the Ozarks on the square and create a little foot traffic downtown.
Are you able to reveal a couple drinks from the in-house and to-go menus? If so, what’s your favorite? Are there any other holiday menu hints you could share to boost some excitement?
I am pretty excited about the Peanut Butter Scrooge. But I also am excited that we’ve expanded a non-alcoholic drink menu for this year so that we can be a little more family-friendly and become a multi-generational experience. We’re changing up our eggnog this year a little bit, and any of our drinks will be available to-go.
Who names and creates the drinks?
It’s a group effort. Ben sort of leads that creative part of the process. But we have a lot of input from our bartenders at Maxine’s who are constantly coming up with great cocktails.
Who leads the decorating process? Will that change with a new venue this year?
That’s also sort of a group effort with Ben, Richard Gathright, and me. I have a serious affinity for vintage Christmas. And my living room has had four different large Santas in it since last March–much to my husband’s chagrin. Our friends at 410 Vintage, Belle Starr Antiques, and In Retrospect are constantly on the lookout for vintage pieces for me. But my husband is constructing some pieces that will help us load up that outside area–it’s intimidating to be in such a large space. And we have been scouring Facebook marketplace and garage sales for about six weeks looking for all the right things. Please keep your eye out for me!
Why is a Christmas pop-up bar important to the community this year?
We think not only is it important for us to find a creative way to give back to our industry in our community right now, but it’s been such a brutal year for so many people we know that we think it’s important to end this year with a little bit of cheer. I think I need a little bit of cheer.
Aside from COVID precautions, is there anything else the merry residents of NWA should know?
We’ve got some exciting programming that’s happening. We are just thrilled that we have an opportunity to pop up this year. We are honored that the Walton Arts Center trusts our creative vision for their space this year. And they are bringing an equal amount of help to the table. We hope that everybody is finding a way to support our local businesses no matter how big or small they are. We want all our small businesses to still be here with us when we come out on the other side of Covid.
Holidaze is open 5 p.m. until midnight nightly Nov. 20 through Dec. 31 except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. To-go Outdoor Recreation Area drinks will be available from 5 to 9:30 p.m. nightly. Holidaze offers both alcoholic and non-alcoholic holiday drinks. Reservation and menu information can be found at www.waltonartscenter.org/holidaze.