Party in Grandma’s basement: Pop-up bar opens to celebrate the season

It’s that time of year when friends and family get together for a few drinks and to reconnect. After an isolating 2020 holiday season, Nora O’Malley figured folks this year are eager to get out and celebrate the season.

So, O’Malley, an event planner, decided to start the Cleveland Christmas Club pop-up holiday bar in the Cleveland Hostel and Guesthouse on West 25th Street.   

The Cleveland Christmas Club makes its debut tonight, Friday, Dec. 3 on the second floor of the Hostel, and will stay open on the weekends for the next three weeks in December. O’Malley says the space has been recreated to look like a “mid-century grandma’s basement” to evoke nostalgic feeling of holiday gatherings.

“It sort of has that feeling of back in the old day Christmas,” she says of the décor that features comfy seating, Christmas trees, a cabinet television, fireplace, plenty of retro furniture, and ornaments hanging from the ceiling.

“It feels like speakeasy,” O’Malley says. “You go upstairs, and it feels like Christmas kind of exploded.”

Classic Christmas movies will be shown, and card tables are set to accommodate a variety of old school games like Monopoly, Candy Land, and playing cards.

O’Malley says the space holds about 65 people, with zoned areas dividing the space for seating both large and small groups, and overflow areas downstairs. A staff of three will serve drinks at the bar.

A portion of proceeds will benefit Near West Recreation and Breakthrough Public Schools, which is a partnership between Ohio City Incorporated, Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization, Tremont West Development, and Metro West Development Organization. The group offers year-round recreation programming on a sliding scale for children of all ages, as well as select programs for adults.

The Cleveland Christmas Club will be collecting donations of children’s sports equipment and school supplies at the pop-up bar to benefit Near West Recreation and Breakthrough Schools. O’Malley says gently used sports equipment and school supplies of all kinds are appreciated.

“We want to benefit as many kids as we can,” says O’Malley.

At the bar, Cleveland Field Kitchen will offer snacks such as port wine and cheese dip with house made crackers, bar olive mix, and holiday spiced nuts, says O’Malley. “It’s really simple in a festive holiday atmosphere.”

Drinks include seasonal libations that fit the holiday theme. House cocktails include Santa’s Sleigh Starter, a cold brew take on a classic espresso martini— “It’s that drink that Santa needs to go around the world,” says O’Malley—and the Mele Kalikimaka, a classically crushable rum punch.

Cleveland Christmas Club will also offer brews from the neighbors, like Festivus from Market Garden Brewery and Dortmunder from Great Lakes Brewing Company. “We’re keeping it super local,” O’Malley says. Beers are $6 each, wine is $9, and cocktails are $11.

O’Malley says she originally planned to open the Christmas Club in a newly restored building in Tremont. The building at West 10th Street and Literary Road was restored by James Asimes of Local Development Partners to accommodate six apartments that will soon be available for rent and a 700-square-foot retail space. O’Malley says that the space quickly became too small for the Christmas Club as word of the pop-up began to spread.

She says that’s when Cleveland Hostel owner Mark Raymond, who is always looking for ways to support the city and small businesses, stepped in and offered his space. Raymond will help O’Malley greet guests and make sure everyone is comfortable.

O’Malley says people can jus show up, or they can make reservations by emailing her—especially for larger groups.

Tremont Christmas Club will accept cash and Venmo for sales and will require proof of vaccination via a photo or proof of a same-day negative COVID-19 test at the door.

The Cleveland Christmas Club opens tonight, Friday, Dec. 3 at 4 p.m. and remains open Wednesdays through Sundays for the next three weekends before Christmas, until Sunday, Dec. 19.

Hours are Wednesday through Friday, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 12 p.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sunday, 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. The Christmas Club is located in the Cleveland Hostel, 2090 W. 25th St. in Ohio City.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.