From a smoking cauldron of alcohol to a table of witches, new bar is all about Halloween

photo by: Courtesy: Apparition

The staff at the new downtown bar Apparition wear Halloween costumes, and so do some of the bar's customers. Above, a witch-themed table sits at the bar located on the upper floor of the building at 724 Massachusetts St.

Usually, a tab is the only thing that scares me at a bar. That may not be the case at a new pop-up bar in downtown Lawrence that has created a haunted mansion theme for its guests.

“It is a lot like exploring a Scooby-Doo mansion, except you will have alcoholic drinks,” Edward Schmalz said of his new creation, Apparition, the temporary bar and cocktail lounge downtown.

Apparition is in the space above RPG Lawrence at 724 Massachusetts St. It’s what is known as a pop-up bar, meaning that it will only be open for a limited period. It is being run in conjunction with RPG, which is the pub and restaurant that has a board-game theme.

Yes, that means you can play a couple of games of Monopoly and be a real witch by charging your foes double rent on Boardwalk, then go upstairs and hang out with a whole coven.

The entire staff at Apparition is in costume, and then there is the music and other special effects that create a haunted mansion vibe, general manager Donald Lewis said.

“It really is a show, and you are in the middle of it,” Lewis said.

Cocktails are a big part of the show. Pretty much all of them have a name that is either tied to a character or plot twist from a horror show or movie. The other commonality: Most of the drinks have something odd about them.

“We want them to be like a horror show in a cup,” Schmalz said.

There are some relatively simple drinks like REDRUM, a homage to Stephen King’s “The Shining,” which the bar describes as an auburn red whiskey drink. But, then, there are more “aggressive” concoctions, Schmalz said. For instance, there’s the Xenomorph, a reference to the creature from the movie “Alien.” The drink comes in a glass rimmed with Sichuan peppercorns, which are meant to numb the mouth. That creates a different flavor for the drink itself, which is dominated by Union Horse rye whiskey.

photo by: Courtesy: Apparition

A Xenomorph cocktail, featuring mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns, shown at the new downtown bar Apparition.

Another is the Upside Down Old Fashioned. The Upside Down is a reference to the paranormal hit show “Stranger Things,” which, I think, includes a plot line about an upside down alternate universe. (I wish somebody would have told me that before I did a headstand on the bar.) The drink uses rum that has been infused with waffles. The drink then has bitters and maple syrup added to it. (A character on the show has a thing for waffles, I’m also told.)

photo by: Courtesy: Apparition

An Upside Down Old Fashioned at the downtown bar Apparition uses rum that has been infused with waffles to create an “Eggo-like” cocktail.

If you are more old school, don’t worry, there is a smoking cauldron to be had, too. The Monster Squad is an alcoholic punch drink that is brought to the table in a cauldron. A server drops a hunk of dry ice into the punch right before serving to create the smoking effect — and a really cold drink.

Schmalz, who is the owner and founder of the business, said the idea for a Halloween-themed bar came rather naturally. He and Lewis had worked together for years in haunted house businesses and other such event-oriented ventures.

But he wanted something even more geared toward adults.

“We wanted to take that Halloween experience, everything you love as a kid, and make it an adult experience,” he said. “You get that same feeling of excitement walking up to a house as a trick-or-treater, but instead of getting a Snickers, you are getting a cocktail.”

Schmalz opened a pop-up bar under the Apparition name in Kansas City last year. This year, he has pop-up bars in North Kansas City, Mo., Wichita and Lawrence, all operating under the Apparition name but each having slightly different Halloween themes.

While COVID-19 certainly has created some challenges for the business, he said bars and restaurants have been eager to partner on creating such pop-up ventures because they are looking for new ways to draw people to their establishments. In Lawrence, Schmalz has partnered with RPG to open Apparition. RPG, for instance, has the liquor license for the establishment, and patrons also can order some menu items from RPG.

Schmalz said the concept fills a niche. Apparition, he said, is attracting a broader demographic than a typical college bar, for instance, because so many different types of people love the Halloween season. Plus, he’s convinced people currently are in the right mood for such an adventure.

“I think people love that it is weird and different,” Schmalz said. “So much of life is mundane right now. This is a chance to experience the genuinely strange.”

Right now, Apparition is open from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. But beginning on Oct. 25, the business will be open every day through Halloween on Oct. 31.

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