It’s peak cherry blossom season — as evidenced by the hordes of visitors backing up roads and Metro stops on their way to catch a glimpse of the blooms at the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C.
Baltimoreans who want to celebrate this rite of spring without making the trek down to the nation’s capital have always been able to head to Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in South Baltimore where there are gorgeous cherry trees in bloom.
But there’s yet another option this year.
Starting this Friday, Charm City will have its own cherry blossom pop-up bar, with spring cocktails, cascades of pink petals and a giant papier-mâché cherry blossom tree.
The pop-up, which will be open for three weekends in March and April, is an initiative of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore and draws inspiration from the cherry blossom bars of Washington, said Claudia Jolin, the Downtown Partnership’s vice president of economic development.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Jolin, who pitched the pop-up after seeing similar concepts do well in the District. “It has never left me: If you make something super cool and beautiful, people are going to line up around the building to see it.”
Baltimore’s pop-up will take over a 10,000-square-foot former bank building at 1 E. Baltimore St. that has been vacant since humanitarian organization World Relief moved out of the space nearly a decade ago.
Inside, Jolin and partners in the project, including Mike Cohn, the owner and operator of Old Goucher board game bar No Land Beyond, have built a cherry blossom-themed wonderland with seating for about 45 people and standing room for many more. The low-lit space is filled with hanging lamps and string lights, faux flowers and red archways that nod to the architecture of Japan. The centerpiece is a 15-foot-tall tree from local artist Anna Platis, who used papier-mâché techniques and recycled materials like Pringles cans and paper towel rolls to recreate the cherry blossom look.
Cohn’s cocktail menu features locally sourced spirits and regional brews, as well as spring drinks like lychee bellinis, yuzu daiquiris and a matcha shochu cocktail. Nonalcoholic options will also be available, though only people of legal drinking age will be allowed inside the pop-up.
Jolin said the cherry blossom bar is just one of several pop-ups she hopes to plan inside the old bank building, which also hosted performances last fall of Love & ROAR!, a rom-com rock musical from the Baltimore Rock Opera Society. Ultimately, the goal is to find a permanent tenant for the space.
“Right now, we’re in an unprecedented part of history where office space really needs to be re-imagined,” Jolin said. “There’s multiple ways to get people interested in a vacancy, but what we found is … sometimes people can’t get past the hump of what’s possible in a space” until they see it in use.
She also hopes the temporary bar will encourage people to spend some leisure time in the Central Business District. A few blocks away, the Downtown Partnership is also organizing “Spring Break Skate,” a pop-up roller skating rink at Hopkins Plaza.
The city’s downtown, already one of the fastest growing residential neighborhoods in Baltimore, is poised for a renaissance with plans to re-imagine Harborplace in the works and the recently remodeled CFG Bank Arena slated to reopen next week. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band will mark the arena’s grand reopening with a concert on April 7.
“We have so many great plazas and spaces in downtown that I think people maybe miss out on,” said Susan Brown, the Downtown Partnership’s director of events and promotions. With these pop-ups, “we’re really just playing on what great assets we have. We’re making sure when someone comes down here for the Bruce Springsteen concert, maybe they’ll come by and hop on some roller skates, maybe they’ll come back downtown to go to the cherry blossom bar.”
“It’s like this spring vibrancy in two blocks,” said Jolin.
If you go
The cherry blossom pop-up bar, located at 1 E. Baltimore St., is open for three weekends in March and April:
Friday, March 31 to Saturday, April 1: 5-10 p.m.
Thursday, April 6 to Saturday, April 8: 5-10 p.m.
Thursday, April 13 to Saturday, April 15: 5-10 p.m.
Admission to the pop-up bar is free, but you must be 21 years or older to enter.
The family-friendly Spring Break Skate is located at 1 Hopkins Plaza and runs Friday through Saturday, April 8. Tickets must be reserved online in advance; visit the Downtown Partnership’s website to make reservations and check daily skating schedules. Tickets for a one-hour session cost $10 per adult and $8 per child under 12 years old. Skate rentals are available for $5 per pair.
This article has been updated to reflect a change in the cocktail menu. The bellini is now lychee-flavored.