A couch on the ceiling isn’t a common sight, but fans of Netflix’s spooky original series “Stranger Things” wouldn’t think twice about it.
In Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, arcade bar Emporium Chicago is operating an underworld-themed pop-up bar called The Upside Down through the end of September. The bar opened on Aug.18 and is named after the creepy dimension in “Stranger Things” — a parallel world discovered in 1983 by a group of middle schoolers from fictional Hawkins, Indiana, when one of their friends goes missing. That world is full of monsters and toxic air, but there’s nothing but ‘80s music, tasty cocktails and good vibes at The Upside Down.
“I’m a fan of ‘Stranger Things’ and I came across the season two trailer,” said Jared Saul, 35, the director of Emporium pop-ups who suggested the theme. “It was kind of an ‘a-ha’ moment, if you will, to do [this theme] leading up to the season two premiere.”
Emporium is known for their two vintage arcade bars in Logan Square and Wicker Park, which host their pop-ups. Past themes included “endless summer” and a collaboration with Pipeworks Brewing Company. Some of the special bars operate for a week, while others stay open for several months.
The Upside Down is a unique pop-up that features incredibly detailed decorations to match “Stranger Things,” including a re-creation of the outside of Benny’s Burgers. The ceiling is decorated with a sofa, a recliner and an ironing board with a shirt, seeming to defy gravity, draped across it. The most photographed part of the bar, according to Saul, is the alphabet painted on a wall beneath strings of rainbow Christmas lights — the same setup that Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) uses in the show to communicate with her 12-year-old son, Will (Noah Schnapp), while he’s trapped in the terrifying world of the “upside down.”
“The decor is probably my favorite part of the bar,” said Laurel McPherson, a 21-year-old senior at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. “Like the lights and the ceiling furniture. It’s crazy to look at.”
Saul said getting the pop-up’s ambiance just right wasn’t an easy task.
“It took four days [to set everything up],” Saul said. “Long days. Like, four 15-hour days.”
Emporium sometimes designs custom cocktails to serve at their pop-ups, and The Upside Down is no exception. The menu includes six show-inspired cocktails with names such as “She’s Our Friend and She’s Crazy” and “Coffee and Contemplation.” Saul said the most popular drink on the menu is the “Eleven’s Eggos” slushie, which is a blend of Angel’s Envy bourbon, lemon, orange, cranberry and maple syrup. It’s garnished with an Eggo waffle — the eclectic character Eleven’s (Mille Bobby Brown) favorite food.
This pop-up has become so popular visitors can expect a 45-minute to hour long wait on weekends. And while you don’t have to watch “Stranger Things” to enjoy The Upside Down, fans of the show find it especially exciting.
“There’s at least one or two people every night that come out … dressed up as characters from the show,” Saul said.
One night, a cosplayer came in looking like a clone of 12-year-old Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), complete with a ball cap and thick, curly brown hair.
Other fans can simply take a selfie by the screen playing the show on a loop or buy a 50-cent pin that reads “The Upside Down” from a gumball machine next to one of the indoor picnic tables.
Not everyone is a fan of the bar. On Monday, Netflix discovered Emporium was running The Upside Down without permission to use material from “Stranger Things.” The streaming service ordered Emporium to close the bar no later than Saturday, Oct. 1.
The Upside Down is at 2367 N. Milwaukee Ave. It’s open from 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Wednesday through Friday, noon-3 a.m. on Saturdays, and noon-midnight on Sundays. Season two of “Stranger Things” comes to Netflix Oct. 27.