Growing trend of seasonal pop-up bars in KC metro poses a few legal questions

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NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo -- Pop-up shops, interactive museums and bars have gained popularity across the country, which has also sparked curiosity in the metro: What's legal and what's not?

Something spooky is rising above the Northland Theater.

In North Kansas City, a temporary Halloween-themed bar has been a hit, hosting about 1,000 customers last weekend. It's one of many pop-up bars across the country that's seen success.

"There's no Halloween bars around, and that was our kind of favorite holiday," owner Adam Roberts said.

That's how "Apparition" was born. It's the name of a "spookeasy" pop-up bar above Screenland Armour Theatre.

"We show '31 Days of Horror Films' at Screenland during October," Roberts said, "so having a horror-themed bar made sense."

Roberts and his two partners, Brent and Ed, created a temporary "bar on the other side," which is a spooky experience open only through Nov. 2. It's free to enter, and there are 13 seasonal cocktails on the menu to buy.

"They're always big successes, and I think with this it's just elongating that out and celebrating a holiday every day," Roberts said. "And Halloween's one of the fastest growing holidays in America, which is crazy to say. How can it grow any bigger than it already is? But I think pop-up bars."

As the pop-up bar trend grows, so does the number of questions surrounding what's actually legal.

"A lot of folks don't know all those laws," Regulated Industries Division Manager Jim Ready said.

Ready and his team catch people hosting illegal events in Kansas City, Missouri.

Under North Kansas City's rules, Roberts is legally good. He holds a liquor license for the entire Screenland Armour Building.

Ready said that's not always the case for other themed parties.

"If you say, 'I'm going to have a Super Bowl party, but it's going to be $10 at the door. I'm going to provide the food and the alcohol', that's against the law," Ready said.

He said any person or business that puts on a pop-up event and charges money, must have a temporary liquor permit. Businesses that already have a license and want to host an event across town need to apply for a catering permit, too.

Temporary licenses with KCMO are good for up to 120 hours and cost $35, including the city, county and state licenses.

"You do have to have some type of temporary liquor license from the city and the state in order to have an event like that," Ready said.

If not, Ready said you could face a fine of up to $1,000 in municipal court or spend 30 days in jail.

"If we catch you, we're going to shut it down," Ready said. "It's going to be the end of the party, so please don't do that."

For more information about pop-up bars and rules about a temporary liquor license, check out this site.

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