Reno’s first art pop-up comes to downtown Reno
Downtown Reno Partnership
By Mike Higdon
Imperial Bar and Lounge will transform into a “Korean BarbieQ,” replete with disembodied Barbie art installations, female empowerment and Korean fusion, through November.
The new owners of Imperial partnered with Abigail Plonkey, founder of THRICE and an arts experience maker out of Denver, Colorado. Plonkey’s team will create a pop-up art and food experience turning Imperial pink and adding six new dishes and six cocktails to its menu. The bar will be filled with Barbie-themed art decorations and interactive installations.
Expect to find chevrons made of legs, a wall made of hair and Barbie-head chandeliers. Plonkey also commissioned a mural by Reno’s Joe C. Rock and a custom sign by Color of Neon, the only neon benders left in Reno.
“It’s meant to be cheeky and fun,” she said.
Plonkey built “Korean BarbieQ” and “Chroma,” a color-themed pop-up experience, in Denver once already. Both lasted for seven days or less. Reno’s “Korean BarbieQ” will run longer than any of the others and is the first of its kind in downtown.
“Reno is a perfect next stop for it to go,” she said.
Plonkey said that unlike some one-and-done pop-up experiences in Manhattan or Los Angeles, hers are meant for people to stay, eat, drink and explore.
“It’s not just for Instagrammable moments, it’s to give people something new to do in downtown and get people together,” she said. “It’s all about discovering the pieces that you’ll stare at for a minute then suddenly figure out.”
Imperial owners Carver Wright, Hassan Mahmood and Dave Scanlon were originally going to shut down Imperial to remodel and rebrand it earlier this year, but wanted to work with Plonkey to create a more exciting and progressive segue between the two brands.
“I kinda love that it’s a bro-ey bar — it’s beer and a shot — but with this feminist concept coming through it’ll be a neat transformation,” Plonkey said.
Korean BarbieQ is a pop-up food and drink experience at Imperial Bar and Lounge in downtown Reno. The theme focuses on female empowerment through deconstructed Barbies. Photo provided by THRICE
Mahmood would not yet reveal the post-“BarbieQ” rebrand. He hinted that “BarbieQ” may somehow be similar to the direction of Imperial’s rebrand.
“We want locals who haven’t been to Imperial in a while to know we’re working on something new,” Mahmood said.
He also wants people outside of Reno to know something funky and cool is happening here and hopes to inspire others to launch their own pop-up experiences.
The launch party for “Korean BarbieQ” starts Aug. 17 at 7 p.m. until 2 a.m. People can RSVP online and there is no ticket or cover charge. If there’s a line, it’ll be first-come, first-serve. The experience will stay the same through November but without the opening night DJs.
“Come in your best ‘BarbieQ’ attire,” Plonkey said, conjuring thoughts of Lady Gaga’s Kermit the Frog outfit.”