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Step through a door in an alleyway off Cahuenga, just north of Hollywood Boulevard, and you’ll find yourself in a galaxy far, far away. Scum & Villainy Cantina — which gets its name from Obi-Wan Kenobi’s foreboding quote about the clientele at the Mos Eisley cantina in Star Wars — is a hotspot where you can cosplay while you cocktail.
Launched as a two-month venture with entry via advance ticket sales ($50 to $80), the pop-up bar and restaurant in the former Loaded space is such a sensation with Jedis, Sith and Slave Leias — who sip drinks like Wretched Blue Milk and The Chosen One — that it has extended its run through at least June. “This was my dream when I was 9: to create a full-scale play set my friends and I could play in,” says founder J.C. Reifenberg, an exec producer on Kevin Smith’s Yoga Hosers. “People who show up here dressed up are no different than people [at a sports bar] in their team jersey with eye black on.” Hollywood bar-scene regulars say they’ve never seen such an embracing scene.
The Force Awakens actor and J.J. Abrams’ childhood bestie Greg Grunberg, who visited with his son Jake, tells THR, “Short of flying my X-Wing, it was the closest I got to feeling Star Wars.” Actress and sci-fi fan Jaime King has made multiple visits (she favors the quesadillas). Lisa Loeb, Danny McBride, Dane Cook and Zachary Levi have stopped by, as has Jason O’Mara (“I’d been dreaming about being able to walk into somewhere like it since I was a kid”) and the showrunners and writers of his series Agents of SHIELD. Smith recorded a podcast there, and even George Lucas’ son Jett has visited twice.
No lawyers from Disney nor Lucasfilm have bellied up to the bar with cease-and-desist notices — Lucasfilm has a long history of high tolerance for fan-fueled ventures, and Reifenberg has avoided stepping into licensing red zones (Disney did not respond to a request for comment). The decor, helmed by his girlfriend, Jen Smith (no relation to Kevin), is a fusion of scavenged influences that inform not only Star Wars but other sci-fi franchises as well. And it’s only the customers who bring the lightsabers and Wookie suits. Says Riefenberg, “Our bartenders aren’t dressed up in anybody’s intellectual property.”
This story first appeared in the May 31 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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