They’re just a couple of bar owners and friends, standing in front of a thirsty (and isolated) community, asking them to support local businesses — and have a little fun in the process, explained Erica Schulte, one of the minds behind a new Lee’s Summit pop-up bar that promises to put a creative spin on Valentine’s Day.
“Our industry has taken a massive hit with COVID-19 and people need positivity. They need something fun and upbeat that can get them through these trying times,” explained Schulte, who also owns Fountain City Ice.
To combat such an economic and emotional downturn, Schulte and her friends at Smoke Brewing Co., The W, and Liquid Minded Concepts are swiping right on a pop-up concept — “Love Hate” — that celebrates the highs and lows of romance.
The pop-up is set to pour its heart (and custom cocktail menu) out Thursday, Feb. 4 in the Barrel Room at Smoke Brewing Co. (which itself is rebooting and reopening at 3 p.m.) — then open 5 p.m. to midnight, Wednesdays-Sundays.
Text 816-287-7777 to make a reservation at Love Hate or click here to follow the pop-up on Instagram.
Love Hate COVID Protocol
Love Hate is expected to follow Jackson County mandates on COVID protocols, with a limited capacity (and no groups larger than 10 people), hand sanitizer on every table, and staff will be wearing masks at all times, Erica Schulte said. Guests will be required to wear masks upon entry and may only take off when eating/drinking.
“Love Hate is really one-of-a-kind,” she added, noting the pop-up will open at a time of year that’s historically slow for bar owners — and that’s without a pandemic lingering over head.
“Traditionally in the food and beverage industry, we see tons of people offer Valentine’s-coursed dinners, but that’s really it. For us, we wanted to call out to people that don’t always get to celebrate — if they choose — on the 14th.”
And while a romantic rendezvous will always have lovebirds at hello, the often-overlooked holiday has increasingly become a time for gal pals to gather and bros to be bros, she said in reference to one of the main motivations behind Love Hate: to give everyone a chance to celebrate their relationships, no matter where they fall on the romance (or cuffing season) spectrum.
“There are many people that don’t necessarily care about the holiday, but still find humor in blowing it off,” she said, explaining a similar experience is found when watching romantic comedies.
Recipe for a rom-com love potion
“When we first started thinking about how we could incorporate the Love Hate concept into naming cocktails, we started to get on a trend of movies and songs,” Schulte said, laying out a full menu of drinks named after and inspired by some of cinema’s most cheesy and cherished one-liners.
The bar’s two-column menu — divided into what one might expect: love and hate themed drinks — includes the likes of “I curse the day you were born,” a “Sex and the City”-inspired drink made with basil-infused J. Rieger’s gin, cacao-infused sweet vermouth and strawberry infused campari; “He’s got you on a pedestal and me in his arms,” a mix of whiskey, watermelon, vanilla, and lime served in honor of “My Best Friend’s Wedding”; and “As you wish,” mixed with the magic of “The Princess Bride” — and vodka, strawberry, vanilla, mascarpone, and an air of lemon verbena.
The menu will also include a nitro stout from Smoke Brewing Co., Schulte said.
“We wanted to be approachable for all demographics — old, young, men, women, couples, groups, and so we figured movies would be the best way to go,” she said, teasing the bar’s decor will follow the same theme, playing up pink, red, and floral decor on one side and black, angsty, rebellion on the other — with all the Instagram worthy-whimsy Kansas Citians have come to adore amid an explosion of pop-up experiences in recent years.
Mixing up more than charm, Schulte said she and the crew working to realize Love Hate are eager the collaborative opportunity for Lee’s Summit bar owners will also provide the Kansas City-area with another reason to get safely out of the house amid a continued period of isolation.
“It’s sort of a thrill, right? It’s exciting and upbeat; it brings people together,” she said. “… [There’s no] better way to continue finding employment for those needing it, [than] while offering a fun and festive experience for everyone to enjoy.”
Neighboring Made in KC and its trio of Kansas City-area cafes also has hopes of reaching a Valentine’s Day crowd, bringing back popular menu items for a third year that include a chocolate covered strawberry latte and the “Queen of Hearts” cocktail, said Keith Bradley, co-owner.
“We’ve got such a creative team behind the bar and they enjoy mixing new flavors together. The new Valentine’s menu is a good way to mix up your normal go to [order,]” he said, noting themed drinks are also available at another concept from the minds at Made in KC: Front Range Coffee House & Provisions in Fairway.
“The drinks are also an expression of what our cafe team hears from the customers, so there’s a good chance if you are a regular at either Front Range or Made in KC, you inspired some of these menu items,” Bradley added.
“There’s so much creativity — both in Kansas City and within our cafe team — that we want to showcase that and be a conduit of that for our customers,” he continued. “Customers look forward to our seasonal menus, sometimes so much they ask for the drinks after they are gone.”
Schulte agreed, eager to safely welcome customers to Love Hate’s thematic experience in the week’s ahead.
“[A pop-up] brings people together. Decor, movies, themed songs … all of those make people happy. We believe true hospitality is an experience.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.