Mark Kwiatkowski found out the hard way that Jell-O is best served in shots.
He was starting a pop-up bar with a theme based on the hit TV show “The Office,” and he wanted to encase some items in Jell-O — the first prank pulled off on the show by Jim Halpert, who lived to torment co-worker Dwight K. Schrute.
So on opening night of the “Office” pop-up bar, there they were — a stapler, pencil sharpener, hole punch, pencil cup, and scissors, all suspended in blue, yellow and green gelatin.
They lasted barely an hour.
“I guess I should have anticipated it,” Kwiatkowski said. “The first person grabbed the stapler out, and, before you knew it, they were all removed.”
Most would view this as a setback, but Kwiatkowski sees it as an opportunity and a mark of success. While he was sad to see the gelatin molds go, he’s excited to replace them with different “Office” Easter eggs and glad fans enjoyed his little slice of Dunder Mifflin inside Replay Lincoln Park, the bar he owns at 2833 N. Sheffield Ave.
Kwiatkowski is a pop-up bar pro by now; he’s had a stream of themed pop-up bars since October 2017, but thinks “The Office” could be his most popular creation yet. He said 200 people were waiting to get into the back-room location for the pop-up on opening night, with lines spilling into the street throughout its inaugural weekend. It will be there through Aug. 19.
Mariana Flores was at the bar Sunday sporting a shirt with the phrase “Do you have your tickets to the gun show?” encircling an image of Dwight flexing a pasty, unimpressive bicep. A self-described “major ‘Office’ fan” who identifies with Angela’s cat obsession, Flores and her fellow Office groupies drove down from Gurnee to check out the bar.
The room’s theme riffs on Dwight and Jim’s party-planning fail. It’s corporate beige, with plain white streamers, paper origami cranes, and, of course, the infamous “It is your birthday” sign. Standard-issue Dell computers with the show’s “Dunder Mifflin” screen-savers are programmed with Minesweeper and other time-killing games; the screens are surrounded by sticky notes with messages like “RIP Sprinkles” and “How the turntables…” For any super-fans looking for a selfie with Jim and Pam, life-sized cutouts of the show’s characters are waiting around the bar.
The attention to detail is the result of a Netflix binge by Kwiatkowski and his artistic team. Kwiatkowski watched at least 30 hours, while one of his artists consumed three seasons in just a week.
The team not only had to find ways to incorporate the show into the room, but also had to find opportunities to give their specialty drinks a dash of Dunder Mifflin. While some cocktails like the “Chili’s Margarita” and “That’s What She Said” are simply “Office”-inspired, some are creations pulled straight from the show’s scripts.
Tony Seeger is a regular to Kwiatkowski’s pop-up bars and was sipping a “Scotch and Splenda” — the simple mixture of Dewar’s and artificial sweetener that’s a go-to drink for regional manager Michael Scott, played by Steve Carell.
“It’s not as good as Michael made it look,” he laughed.
Kwiatkowski still plans to add a vending machine filled with office equipment (another prank by Jim, played by John Krasinski) and wants to infuse the pop-up with more of his favorite character, Creed.
What he’s most excited about, though, are the annual Dundees, tentatively slated for Aug. 10 at the bar. Fans may protest the awards are always at Chili’s, but have no fear; Kwiatkowski said he’s in talks with the restaurant “where business happens” about sponsoring the event.
You might think Kwiatkowski by now would flee the sound of the jangling “Office” intro, but he said he watched more of the show over the weekend to figure out what to install to replace elements destroyed during the opening.
“The best part for me is satisfying the fans,” he said. “Seeing people having a good time, people coming back, telling their friends via social media, saying it was a blast.”