At Hey Love’s New Halloween Tiki Pop-Up Black Lagoon, Spirits Go Bump in the Dark

“We worship at the Book of the Holy Hammered—complete with holy water!”

Late one recent Monday evening, passersby glancing inside Hey Love—the flora-enveloped tastemaker lounge occupying the ground floor of boutique hotel Jupiter Next—wouldn’t have been particularly surprised by the scene. A typically tourist-heavy clientele was seated amid thickets of local revelers sloppily talking shop as a windowside DJ spun lightly remixed Siouxsie Sioux.

Had they peered a bit closer, though, a few elements might have raised eyebrows. The last-call crowd on an otherwise typically sleepy mid-October weeknight was weirdly large and looser than usual—perhaps a consequence of the vacant skull glasses littering the tables. Toy ravens were roosting in the ceiling garden—a new decorative touch—and skeletons lurked around every corner. Final orders paired hemoglobin-red mixed drinks with oil-slick black small plates. While one hesitates to identify any outfit as a costume, the DJ’s pointy hat and wide-collared cloak certainly looked like a last-minute stab at witch garb, and no matter how figure flattering her tightly cinched tunic happened to be, something other than fashion concerns prompted bar manager/co-owner Sophie Thomson to wear a nun’s habit.

“We worship at the Book of the Holy Hammered—complete with holy water,” Thomson laughed. “Let me grab my bible!”

Every evening for the remainder of the month, Hey Love will transform itself into Black Lagoon: an immersive pop-up lounge serving craft drinks steeped in the darkest traditions of tiki. The installation is one of 10 across North America, representing the most ambitious effort yet by high-end cocktail consultants Trash Collective. But, Thomson explains, her bar’s unique interior design aligned seamlessly with the pop-up’s aesthetic.

“Since there were already some lagoon features here, we could add on décor as we went along rather than having to start from scratch, which was nice,” she says. “All the plants normally here are real, but we wanted some twisting, turning, viney things. We’re maximalists. More is more, that’s definitely the big thing for us, and we just tried to throw everything we could at that swampy, spooky, kind of dark feeling.”

Pop-up bars come in a variety of flavors—from vacant lounges painstakingly imagineered to resemble a Diagon Alley dive (and turn crap lager into $20 butterbeers) to brewery- or distillery-led trunk show-style appearances. In general, the focus tends to be on what or where you’re drinking. However, like last year’s Yuletide-themed installation Miracle, the central conceit behind Black Lagoon’s long Halloween pre-party is all about when you’re drinking.

If the less-than-revolutionary idea evokes images of bartenders dressed like Dracula upselling “spooooky” seasonal samplers (the lazily lurid online branding and garish menus hardly help), the actual execution of Black Lagoon’s concept somehow avoids obvious gimmickry. Macabre curios and nods to the dark arts were carefully embedded in Hey Love’s vegetation, and familiar drinks along with standard pub grub dishes get fanciful takes here.

Though recognizably influenced by tiki culture, the signature cocktails concocted by the Black Lagoon coven benefit from the shifting parameters. None of the drinks on display depends on dry ice or other parlor tricks to justify its $14 to $16 price. Aside from the aforementioned skull-served Holy Diver—a more penetrating Scorpion Bowl for the adventurous foursome—drinking vessels weren’t the point. If anything, the $40 deposit demanded (and returned with your cup) to sip a Closed Casket from a ceramic mermaid proved an inane hurdle to enjoying the inventive brandy and single-malt scotch tipple: think passion-fruit julep, in which darker flavors warped the sugars toward sharper, spicier effects.

Among the house specialties, Blood Rave was an arresting brimstone swirl of mezcal, beet, absinthe, falernum and bitters; but the drink I’ll miss most once this pop-up ends is the Screaming Banshee—a yogurt-enlivened take on ye olde gin fizz with Botanist gin, Giffard apricot brandy liqueur, pineapple and lime.

Though the small “Bites” portion of the menu may look like an afterthought, the food may have been the pop-up’s biggest success. At just $10, the soy- and chile-glazed Vampyre Bat Wings’ daunting size and Stygian shade masked a restrained seasoning, gently complementing an impossibly moist chicken, while the Monster Mac slider was a dense flavor bomb and far more filling than the size of the blackened bun or negligible price tag ($9) would suggest.

Even at peak spookiness, Hey Love could schedule actual chainsaw massacres every other hour and still seem like the least scary bar in its neighborhood. No matter how playful the underlying concept or personalized the individual flourishes, it remains at heart a hotel lounge—a stylish, well-lit hotel lounge filled with mismatched and often benumbed travelers.

“A few of the hotel guests were quite surprised,” Thomson explains. “I tried luring them in with my bible and my holy water, and they did not go for it. Somebody asked if I was a Halloween riddle that they had to solve. I just wanted them to come hang out, but they took a drink and scurried away back to their room, which they’re welcome to do. Some people are here for a board meeting, and I don’t think we jibed with board meeting energy. And that’s OK! But there’s a little something for everyone here—delicious food and drinks, some extra ephemera. And, you know, I won’t be wearing a nun costume forever.”

DRINK: Black Lagoon at Hey Love, 920 E Burnside St., 503-206-6223, heylovepdx.com. 3 pm-midnight Monday-Thursday, 3 pm-1 am Friday, 10 am-1 am Saturday, 10 am-midnight Sunday, through Oct. 31.