A Tradition Yule Love: Pop-up bar ‘sleighs’ its return with dual locations

A Tradition Yule Love: Pop-up bar ‘sleighs’ its return with dual locations

Part of the fun of a pop-up, in Hannah Withers’ opinion, is never knowing what the next event — or even event space — might look like. It’s a new puzzle, she says, to keep the enterprise always shifting, evolving and changing.

Take a look at the annual holiday-themed pop-up bar Withers and husband Ben Gitchel (of Maxine’s Taproom), along with Richard Gathright and Cjay Crespo, have mounted for its third year, and you’ll see that idea played out in spades.

When Holidaze debuted in 2019, it had taken over an intimate, empty shop space on Center Street off the Fayetteville downtown square. In its second year, organizers partnered with the Walton Arts Center to create an experience that included outdoor seating and allowed for adequate social distancing in the face of the lingering pandemic. For 2021, their ambitions have only continued to grow — along with Holidaze’s footprint.

The Holidaze pop-up bar raised more than $40,000 for local nonprofits during its 40-day run at the end of 2020. The bar’s organizers are looking forward to supporting the Fayetteville Independent Restaurant Alliance, the Washington County Children’s Safety Center, Northwest Arkansas Equality and the Walton Arts Center’s arts education programming with proceeds from this year’s two locations. (Courtesy Photo/Walton Arts Center)

“We have some new owners of this [former Ozark Cleaners] building on Block Avenue next door to Maxine’s, which we have always admired and loved. It’s a gorgeous historic, old building, and they have given us a chance to pop up in it this year,” Withers explains. “And we also really loved working with the space at the Walton Art Center — the outdoor Rose Garden gave us a lot of opportunity for creativity. So we decided this year that we were going to attempt to do two.”

The Walton Arts Center will maintain the family-friendly pop-up location where last year’s popular outdoor covered seating domes, firepits, s’mores kits and Letters to Santa all return for another year of holiday cheer for all ages. WAC has the “nice” location, so a couple blocks over, Withers and team decided to also host a “naughty” Holidaze for ages 21 and up.

“We all kind of stood back last night for the first night that all of the lights were on in an 8,500-square-foot building and said, ‘Hey, we’re getting pretty good at this. I’m proud of us. This is a big project,’” Withers said of the “naughty” location the week before both Holidaze opened. “Each one is going to be a different equation, and we hope to keep moving around and keeping it fresh and keeping it different.”

Each location will host programming suited to its theme, and both will have their own menu of alcoholic and nonalcoholic holiday drinks.

“Another thing this year is we are now an official 501(c)3,” Gathright notes, “and we will be donating a portion of all of our profits this year to the Fayetteville Independent Restaurant Alliance, the Washington County Children’s Safety Center, and Northwest Arkansas Equality.”

Proceeds from the WAC location will support the arts center’s arts education programming.

“I have to say, hosting Holidaze [pop-up bar] was one of the truly fun things we did,” Jennifer Wilson, director of public relations for the arts center, told What’s Up! in March as she looked back at the previous year. “It was great for our staff. It was great for the hospitality workers and charities that Holidaze supports, and it was a good thing for the community overall. Hannah [Withers] and her team do an amazing job, and we were happy to come alongside them to end a really challenging year on a high note.”

The Naughty Holidaze pop-up bar has taken up residence at the former Ozark Cleaners on Block Avenue in Fayetteville through New Year’s Eve. Both this and the WAC location will offer to-go drinks at their walk-up bars in accordance with Fayetteville’s Outdoor Refreshment Area. (The Free Weekly/J.T. Wampler)

Visitors can be sure to spot the “naughty and nice” themes reflected in the two spaces’ decor as well. Withers admits to becoming “a bit of a nerd” for vintage Christmas decorations, and always has a particular eye out for tiny elves, blow molds and mechanical pieces from bygone eras. Over the years, the team have collected enough decorations to “totally deck out” a space larger than 8,000 square feet, Gathright assures, as they run “massive trucks full of Santas and reindeers and things” to the WAC location.

“I think one of the big things we wanted was to re-create what happened year one, but on a larger scale — more of a dive Christmas bar,” Gathright says of the vision for the Block Avenue space.

“One of the things that I really missed last year is that Maxine’s has been a staple for a lot of people to come home to for the holidays in Fayetteville, and because of the lack of travel and the discouragement of gathering in intimate indoor places, that was something that really left me feeling pretty empty about the holiday season this year,” Withers says in closing.

“And so I hate to be too optimistic about us coming out of this, but I think that we might all be finally ready for that hot girl summer that we thought was going to happen in July. It just might be a hot girl winter — and everybody looks good in those boots. So I think people are really ready, and becoming more ready, to let loose a little bit. And we definitely are.”



Holidaze Pop-Up Bars

WHEN & WHERE — 5-11 p.m. daily through Dec. 23 at the Walton Arts Center, 495 W. Dickson St.

5 p.m.-2 a.m. daily through Dec. 31 at 101 N. Block Ave.

COST — Free; drinks available for purchase

INFO — waltonartscenter.org/holidaze; facebook.com/holidaze

FYI — Both locations will close Thanksgiving Day, and the Block Avenue location will close Christmas Day. For information on booking for parties of 15 or more, email rflood@waltonartscenter.org for the WAC location or holidazepopup@gmail.com for the Block Avenue location.



Holidaze Programming Schedule

“Naughty” Holidaze on Block

101 N. Block Ave.

Dec. 5

7:30 p.m. — NWA Makers Auction

Local makers have handcrafted oversized ornaments for a Makers Tree, and the ornaments will be auctioned live to benefit Peace at Home Family Shelter. Free; wares available for purchase.

Dec. 10

9 p.m. — Stooges Brass Band from New Orleans

According to bestofneworleans.com, “the Stooges Brass Band puts on one of the most entertaining, audience-interactive shows of any band on the scene.” $10-$15.

“I’m probably most excited about the brass band,” Gathright shares. “I saw the Stooges in New Orleans probably about five or six years ago at a bar called Le Bon Temps Roule on Magazine Street, and I’m super excited to have them in our bar.”

Dec. 15

5-10 p.m. — Full Moon Market

Holiday shopping is made easy with gifts galore from local artists, makers and merchants. Free; wares available for purchase.

Dec. 19

8:30 p.m. — Radiant Rubyesque Productions presents: Santa’s Naughty List

Get ready for a bit of naughtiness with regional burlesque performers. $10-$15.

“I have not seen a burlesque show in Northwest Arkansas before, and that might be the naughtiest [event]. I mean, I guess we can see who can out-naughty each other, but I’m really excited about the burlesque troupe,” Withers enthuses. “And Lana Violette has pulled together a regional crew of talented people that are really excited to perform again.”

Dec. 29

8:30 p.m. — Holidazzle Drag Show

These queens bring the seasonal sparkle, featuring Kiera Maserati, Umami Origami, Faux L’Beau and Ella Rosa. $10.

“As always, our annual drag show is really big, and it’s super exciting because we get to work with local drag queens that have become kind of a staple of the community,” Holidaze partner Cjay Crespo says of the program he’s most looking forward to. “It’s selling pretty quickly already so you can tell that people are very excited about the drag show right now.”

Tickets for all events Holidaze on Block events can be purchased at stubs.net/o/124-DMJJS1/holidaze.

“Nice” Holidaze at WAC

495 W. Dickson St.

Nov. 29

5-8 p.m. — Elf’s Workshop

Kids can make and take a holiday craft and get their pictures taken with the elves. $5.

Dec. 6

6-11 p.m. — Annual Nog Off Competition

Purchase an egg nog flight and vote for the best nog created by local bars and restaurants. Proceeds benefit the Fayetteville Independent Restaurant Association and Walton Arts Center education programming. $15.

Dec. 13

6-9 p.m. — Santa Visits Holidaze

Get a professional picture with the big guy himself and Mrs. Claus, and a Christmas cookie from Santa. $5.

More information at waltonartscenter.org/holidaze.

Categories: Cover Story