On Sunday, eager Game of Thrones fans get to revisit the wicked world of Westeros, as the seventh season of the hit drama premieres on HBO. But for some devotees, a trip to the fantastical land has already taken place.
In mid-June, a Game of Thrones pop-up bar opened in Washington, D.C., attracting fans with immersive rooms depicting quintessential settings from the popular series. The pub, which is sprawled across three adjacent watering holes, is owned by Drink Company, a D.C.-based company that has in the past decorated its locations with other prominent themes like Christmas, Stranger Things, and cherry blossoms and Super Mario (to showcase gifts from Japan).
In one of the rooms, a dragon roars and fills the space with smoke. Another space hosts a replica of the Wall of Faces, made of molds of the faces of employees and pals of the bar. And behind the bar is a towering weirwood tree, with crimson leaves blanketing the branches. The drinks are also themed: The menu features Ommegang's Bend the Knee, the official beer of Game of Thrones, along with an array of cocktails like The North Remembers and the Dothraquiri.
Beyond giving fans a chance to sit on the Iron Throne without engaging in a ruthless war, tapping the Game of Thrones theme has proven to be lucrative for Drink Company. During the cherry blossom pop-up bar, Drink Company co-founder and CEO Angie Fetherston said between 800 and 1,000 people visited the location per day. The Game of Thrones bar sees upwards of 1,250 people a day with, some waiting in line for hours. And once inside, customers can pay between $13 and $15 for a specialty cocktail.
"At Drink Company, we always try and do things for pride and money," Fetherston said when asked how the company measures success. "So it's not just about profit margins for us, but about giving people a product that we firmly believe in and we think is great."
Fetherston launched Drink Company with co-founder and cocktail expert Derek Brown in 2010. Before that, she worked as an integrated marketing account executive at WUSA9, D.C.'s local CBS affiliate. Under Drink Company, Fetherston and Brown own Mockingbird Hill, Eat the Rich, and Southern Efficiency, where the Game of Thrones pop-up pub is located (the two also own Columbia Room, which isn't related to the Thrones experience).
In 2015, Drink Company first experimented with themed decor and decked out one bar with elaborate Christmas trimmings Fetherston and friends made. This included dinosaur nativity scene and a dreidel chandelier, along with seasonal cocktails. Fetherston said they were "blown away" by customers' responses and the following year expanded the same theme to the three adjacent bars.
"We are just huge [Game of Thrones] fans, so when we said 'Let's think of doing something in the summer,' that was the first thing that came up," Fetherston said. "And everyone got so excited about it."
Making a Game of Thrones-themed space was a recipe for success. Word spread, as fans visited the pub, snapping Instagram-worthy shots and sharing them with their followers. While business in the lead-up to the season premiere has been notable, Fetherston kept mum about any plans Drink Company has for that evening. She also couldn't say if Drink Company would create another Game of Thrones pop-up pub for the final season. This bar is slated to close on Aug. 27, the same day as the season seven finale.
But staffing the bar with Game of Thrones enthusiasts posed a problem very early on--who was going to sacrifice watching the show live on Sunday nights, making them vulnerable to spoilers? Drink Company's solution was to close the bar at 7 p.m. on Sundays, so the staff can make it home to catch the show.