New downtown cocktail bar opens, aiming to create a ‘Midwest getaway’

Nov. 18, 2020

It’s a little tropical, a little tiki, a little retro and ready for customers.

The Hello Hi officially opens today in the Beach Pay Building on Phillips Avenue between Ninth and 10th streets in the space that used to be Half Baked.

The bar is owned and operated by local industry veterans Sara Benson and Pat Nelson, along with Brandon De Jong.

“We’ve been planning this concept and collecting pieces for over two years now and are thrilled with the outcome,” the owners said in a statement.

“We didn’t want to be boxed in to any specific theme in our design approach. We’ve riffed on elements from tropical, tiki, nautical, retro design to create our own Midwest getaway.”

The decor is a mixture of new and old, real and artificial. Most of the furniture and fixtures have been created locally or purchased second-hand locally.

“We want our guests to feel like they are stepping into another world or even another era,” the owners said.

“This time of year, we are especially hoping to provide an escape from our soul-crushing winters. We’ve put a lot of attention to detail into our cocktail ingredients, music, design and decor, and want to create experiences packed with pleasant surprises. Based on the reactions we are seeing and feedback we are hearing, it seems like it’s working.”

The group has been battling the pandemic in parallel with their business opening all year, originally announcing the concept in early May.

“The unfortunate timing of this opening is not lost on us, and we are taking several precautions to reduce COVID-19 exposure and spread,” they said, adding that staff are required to wear masks and use sanitizer. Guests must wear a mask when not seated.

“Upon entry, complimentary masks are provided for anybody who may need one. We’ve reduced capacity, spread out our seating and made sanitizer convenient throughout the bar. We have a good amount of space, with lots of nooks to hide away in.”

Rather than limiting hours, the bar will be open daily from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. and encourage people to come during non-peak times to spread out visits and reduce weekend crowds.

“We will also be releasing The Hello Hi cocktails-to-go to provide quarantine provisions to anybody who may not feel comfortable hanging out with us at this time,” they said.

The shelves are lined with more than 50 rums from all over the world, a number that will continue to grow.

The initial menu includes craft cocktails, tiki cocktails and some original creations. Here’s a look at it:

“Developing an interesting nonalcoholic cocktail menu was also very important to us,” the owners said. “Plenty of time was spent creating a series of drinks with all the attention to detail but without the alcohol.”

The Hello Hi offers drinks only, but Pizza Cheeks will be opening in the back of the bar in a few weeks, offering New York-style pizza guests can eat in the bar or take to go.

To learn more about Pizza Cheeks, click below.

New York-style pizza kitchen coming to downtown from Bread & Circus owners

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New downtown cocktail bar opens, aiming to create a ‘Midwest getaway’

“We want our guests to feel like they are stepping into another world or even another era.”

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