LAWRENCE, Kan. – If Clark Griswold from the the classic comedy “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” wrote a business plan, surely it would look something like this: More than a mile’s worth of Christmas lights strung through a couple of downtown Lawrence buildings, and an old camper parked out front for good measure.
That is indeed the scene at Snow Globe, a new pop-up bar and restaurant from a couple of Lawrence entrepreneurs — longtime music promoter and bar owner Mike Logan and event organizer Ryan Robinson.
The duo, though, may not find the Clark Griswold analogy appropriate. No, they won’t take offense. It just may not go far enough.
“Everything Ryan does is Clark Griswold on steroids,” Logan said.
That’s how you end up with a downtown business that really does have more than one mile of Christmas lights strung throughout its indoor and outdoor seating areas, Robinson said. Snow Globe has taken over the spot that Logan’s downtown bar Lucia Beer Garden + Grill, 1016 Massachusetts St., occupies. The business also extends next door to the space that previously housed Sylas and Maddy’s, before the ice cream shop moved to its new location.
The business, which opened on Thanksgiving eve and will remain open just past New Year’s Day, plans to make its money by selling holiday-themed cocktails in the evening and offering a family-friendly brunch menu during the day on weekends.
But what the business really is selling is more of a feeling.
“We just want to try to create something fun that people will look forward to,” Logan said.
That involves more than just the outrageous number of lights. It also involves constant holiday music, including some unusual tunes during the cocktail portion of the business; spontaneous visits from Santa Claus during the family-friendly brunches, cardboard cutouts of famous Christmas characters throughout the establishment; and even a waffle menu inspired by Will Ferrell’s Buddy the Elf character.
“A lot of these are a little bit sugary,” Robinson said of a menu that includes one waffle topped with sugar cookie cereal and sugar sprinkles, while another has vanilla frosting, chocolate chips and chocolate syrup.
There’s no word on whether the establishment has a room with padded walls for anyone who eats half a waffle or more, but the menu does include more traditional dishes like biscuits and gravy, omelettes and lots of bacon. (In case you don’t have a six-digit glucose meter on hand.)
As for the camping trailer out front, the old aluminum Airstream is an elaborate prop. It is decorated with holiday ornaments to serve as a backdrop for Christmas portraits or selfies. In a sign of how things go down at Snow Globe, by Friday morning the scene didn’t just include the decked-out camper but also included a giant blow-up holiday moose that stands about twice as tall as the camper.
While this all seems plenty over the top, know that the original plans called for even more. The business is named Snow Globe because Robinson owns about a 20-acre parcel near the unincorporated community of Globe in southwest Douglas County. Original plans called for Robinson to host a giant Christmas-themed attraction at the property. Those plans are still in the works for future years, sans a pandemic.
“The long-term plan is a Christmas tree farm and an over-the-top Christmas experience at the property,” Robinson said. “But there was just too much uncertainty this summer to make plans for something that big.”
“I’ve seen all of Ryan’s decorations,” Logan said, ” and I mean like 40-foot tall blow-ups. Whenever the outdoor portion launches, it will be a real sight to see.”
The pandemic put that plan on hold, and it also required the pair to rethink how they are operating the pop-up bar and restaurant. The establishment is not allowing walk-in customers. Everything must be done via reservation at snowglobepopup.com. The reservation system is ensuring the establishment doesn’t become too crowded. Logan estimates the business is operating at about 30% of its normal seating capacity.
“We know we have to host a safe environment, and we continually stress that,” Logan said.
The idea of smaller crowds is a new concept to both Logan and Robinson. They both have been in the business of trying to create large crowds. Logan, in addition to owning Lucia, owns several large downtown music and event venues, including The Granada, The Bottleneck and Abe & Jake’s Landing. Robinson for the last 20 years has been traveling across the country hosting events, including being one of the lead promoters for The Color Run 5K craze. He has since sold that event business, but said he’s now looking for more opportunities to do events in the Lawrence area.
Look for some more craziness to come because that seems to be what the market demands, Robinson said.
“A lot of it is, is if you look at people’s attention spans these days, you realize you have to do something over the top to grab people’s attention,” he said.
The pop-up concept is a different type of event than what Robinson and Logan are used to, but it is has been a welcome one. Logan, for instance, hasn’t been able to host any live concerts since the beginning of the pandemic.
“We have a lot of pent-up energy because of the standstill that COVID has put the world into,” Robinson said. “It has been fun, but it also has been therapeutic.”