DTLA's New Pop-Up Bar Promises It Has Nothing To Do With Blade Runner
November 2019. It's the date that opens the classic sci-fi noir Blade Runner, and we're almost there. Retro-futurist pop-up bar Neotropolis just happens to be opening up Nov. 1 in downtown Los Angeles to give you an experience that has no affiliation with Blade Runner — multiple notices on its website tell you this — but has an aesthetic that will seem familiar to anyone who enjoyed that movie.
"I've always been interested in the version of the future that I grew up with in the '80s, that never quite came to pass," Neotropolis creator Jared Butler said.
STEP INTO THE FUTURE THAT DIDN'T END UP BECOMING THE PRESENT
The Broadway bar combines retro sci-fi, art deco, film noir, and L.A. noir fiction, according to Butler. So, think detective stories plus lots of neon.
They wanted to be sure it was clear that they didn't just find a venue with that retro aesthetic, so they've added both some obvious and more subtle touches to the venue. That ranges from computer monitors and custom neon, to a giant fan that's been backlit to add to the vibe.
Neotropolis even features the largest TV Butler said they could find, used as a fake window displaying a future cityscape outside. It even changes depending the time you enter the bar, going from sunset to nighttime, along with that iconic and totally unrelated Blade Runner weather event: rain. (Rain in Los Angeles? A crazy future indeed.) The monitors will also be playing custom videos, meant to evoke a cyberpunk feel.
Beyond the bar, there's a lower level being transformed into "the Undercity." It's designed as a cityscape, from a fake storefront to an extra bar. You'll find fliers on the walls with details about this imaginary future city, down to tear-off phone numbers from fake ads.
There's even a penthouse office room with a view, along with a reception area that will probably seem at least somewhat reminiscent of Blade Runner's Tyrell Corporation offices.
They've also got futuristic characters in place, from the staff to those mixing and mingling among the patrons.
"You won't necessarily know whether the person having a drink next to you is just another customer, or is part of the atmosphere," Butler said.
IT'S NOT BLADE RUNNER
Butler's been working for the last 10 years with Wasteland Weekend, an experience that's even more directly Mad Max than the Mad Max-like experiences they have over at Burning Man. Now he's working on creating a different dystopian future.
But, it's not Blade Runner, because legally it can't be. When the pop-up was first announced, it was called "Nexus 2019" — and it's conspicuously changed its name, along with adding that "we're not Blade Runner we promise"-type disclaimer.
Butler declined to name any specific properties that may have inspired Neotropolis during our interview — given big studio lawyers, we're guessing that's a good idea. But he said it was inspired by a variety of anime, films, and comic books.
"It's not an homage ... where you're going to see movie props from certain films," Butler said. "We wanted it to feel like a deleted scene from one of those movies — as if you walked into a bar set that maybe they had built but never filmed."
The location itself and its place among classic literature is part of what makes the venue evocative, according to Butler.
"When you walk down Broadway at night, you kind of feel the spirit of Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler, and Ray Bradbury," Butler said.
FUTURE FOOD & DRINKS
The food and drink menu also takes cues from the '80s.
"A lot of the cocktails from the '80s were not the cocktail renaissance that we're used to today," Butler said.
So they set about elevating classic drinks, from the Long Island iced tea to the margarita. There's a futurist Asian influence on the menu as well, with drinks like a Thai tea-inspired cocktail.
They've even combined food and drink for one nod to that world they're not officially affiliated with — a rum-based cocktail with noodles.
Beyond the menu, that Asian influence extends to the signage, with signs in English, Japanese, and Chinese. They wanted to embrace the multicultural future seen in the art that inspired Neotropolis.
Beyond the November 2019 run, it's possible that the pop-up will be extended, Butler said — but only if people come out.
"This is kind of a dream for me," Butler said," to be able to create a place — what would be my favorite neighborhood bar? Where I would want to go, every night, and feel like not only do I get to relax a little bit, but just step into another world for a while."
They also plan to make some small tweaks and additions as the month goes on.
For the moment, he encouraged fans to come out dressed in costume. We're guessing some of those costumes may be Blade Runner-inspired, but that's OK, the lawyers don't control your fashion choices.
You can buy tickets for timed entry at the Neotropolis Bar now, for $82 a head, plus fees. You get two hours inside, a complimentary cocktail, and souvenirs including a light-up umbrella, an ID card, a souvenir glass, a t-shirt, and a patch.