It seemed like such a long time ago. The Brick Bar (formerly LEGOBar, or something along those lines) made the press, in the wake of the successful The LEGO Movie. Someone had the idea of capitalising on the resurgence of LEGO as an acceptable pastime, combining it with mainstream nightlife.
They had already launched venues in Australia, and a couple of years ago announced their plans to open a venue in London and other places around the world.
It was only in October last year that the plans came to fruition. “1,000,000 Bricks Are Coming to London”, their newsletter announced, and 500 tickets for their opening week were put up for sale through Eventbrite.
Yes, tickets! If you hadn’t been paying attention to the press releases, this is another one of those pop-up ventures.
Curious to see if it would live up to the hype – and because no-one else would – I decided to check it out. The damage for entry (including fees) was GBP 24.55, which supposedly got me a two-hour slot in the bar.
The grand opening…
Part of the hype surrounding The Brick Bar was its “secret location”, only announced to those who bought tickets. I won’t disclose its exact spot, though I will mention that it’s (predictably) somewhere around the trendy Shoreditch area.
The Brick Bar opened its doors on the 25th April 2019, and my ticket was for an after office hours visit on the 26th.
Inside The Brick Bar…
Here’s some brief footage of my visit to The Brick Bar, recorded from a corner of the room (because I had some food with me). There’s no sound due to potential copyright issues, and nothing I could replace it with (due to potential copyright issues).
Some of the things present in The Brick Bar:
Those “million” bricks
Along the sides of the venue are various sized boxes of LEGO-compatible bricks, and numerous surfaces – mostly wall-mounted – to have fun building something on.
As suspected, and made obvious by the preliminary photos, these aren’t LEGO-branded bricks. I don’t know what brand they were, as there were no logos on the studs.
…and what to do with them
To give you an idea of the kind of crowd The Brick Bar attracted: here are some of their “creative” creations. There were quite a few builds representing brands and famous video game characters, suggesting they were made prior to the venue opening.
Taking it outside
There’s a small area outside, where you can have a go at building something with these larger than usual third-party bricks. As with the bricks indoors, you’re restricted to rectangular bricks.
Anyone for tennis?
You might even be lucky enough to have a game of ping-pong (or table tennis) on this table made almost entirely of third-party bricks. There’s only one of these in the venue, and the paddles and balls are provided.
A water feature
There is actually some genuine LEGO to be found. The Brick Bar makes use of these large minifigure head containers: in this case as the focal point of a water feature. The bowls were formed using third-party bricks and some kind of resin.
We also have selfie central, also known as this ball pit. While there was no way I would jump in this thing myself (because I have no idea what’s in there!), it was occupied the entire time by wannabe social media celebrities.
Spinning bricks (the PG version of what’s lit up on the booth)
There were other selfie opportunities, such as the large thrones made using the larger third-party bricks (pictured on the right).
What you couldn’t fail to notice was the incredibly enthusiastic DJ, also serving as an MC, mixing everybody [else]’s favourite chart music.
Food and drink…
The Brick Bar wouldn’t be a bar without food and drink options, and there were three offerings.
There was a surprise appearance from Project D (who happens to share its name with a typeface I had made a few years ago!), who were showcasing a line-up of highly indulgent doughnuts. One of their doughnuts would set you back GBP 5, or GBP 9 for two.
As well as not having a spare shot of insulin lying around, I didn’t have one as they all contain soy. (Of course this wasn’t disclosed anywhere, but I had asked the representative.)
Drinks from the bar.
One thing I didn’t take a picture of was the bar, although you can see glimpses of it in the aforementioned video.
The Brick Bar doesn’t allow you to bring your own food or drink into the venue, but they had the usual selection available from the bar, as well as readily available pitchers of water.
They were promoting (by way of a sign) a gin-based cocktail for GBP 8, while a can of regular Coca Cola cost GBP 2.
A popular novelty was the option of having your drink served in a “brick” cup, resembling a 2×3 brick (a lot like the ones pictured above).
However, this option was restricted to “clear” drinks only – and no, you don’t get to take them home.
The brick burger…
For full disclosure: the number one reason I decided to check out The Brick Bar was to try one of their gorgeous-looking burgers. Just look at this promotional photo, taken directly from the official site:
How good do those look? The burgers represent beef (red), chicken (yellow) and green (vegetarian) options.
You saw correctly, and I am not making this up.
The good news is: the burger was quite good, and you can add as many onions and pickles as you can handle. It was actually very filling. It also gave me an idea for a future project.
The bad news: the burger itself will cost you GBP 7.50. I don’t recall if the price is the same for the chicken and vegetable versions, but they would be similar. The burger with chips will cost you GBP 10.
As good as the burger was, I felt just a bit funny after eating it. This led me to believe that the bread contained soy.
With the shenanigans going on over the last few years, particularly on the local side, I’ve found myself more and more disconnected from LEGO.
Going to the LEGO store, collecting minifigures, and even being part of events are no longer exciting or even entertaining.
So, even though The Brick Bar didn’t have much to do with LEGO from the outset (made obvious by the name change), I was curious to see it would offer anything new. Perhaps it would spark a new lease of life.
In my opinion, neither was the case.
Even if it had nothing to do with the LEGO brand: when I think of the name The Brick Bar, I think of a bar or coffee shop-like venue.
A spot where people can choose to build things, be around other people interested in LEGO, and perhaps have something to eat and drink. Maybe even get up and dance.
They had mentioned a DJ “spinning tunes” from the beginning, though I wasn’t certain how prominent they or the music would be.
We should know by now: any time music is advertised as a selling point, those who don’t like mainstream stuff are going to be disappointed.
Instead, what I had experienced was more like a themed party. It resembled a LEGO-themed birthday party hosted by someone with money, but without LEGO’s involvement.
The biggest issue I had with The Brick Bar was being left wondering who their target audience is.
It can’t be LEGO enthusiasts, even if the million bricks were LEGO branded.
There was virtually nowhere to sit and either build or have food – I had to manage with the far corner of the bar – and virtually no chance of accessing the ping-pong table or other features.
While the majority of the building space was against the walls, there wasn’t enough space to be creative in general (because of people standing around doing nothing).
It definitely isn’t children!
On the official site it mentions 18+ (for the UK and Canada), where under 21s must be accompanied by an adult. However, at one point the DJ made an announcement that those under 16 should leave.
Speaking of which: while I was only at the venue for around 25 minutes, there was no mention of any building competitions – or any prizes – which had been another selling point for the venue.
The closest demographic I can think of is the generic, social media addicted hipster crowd. Those who would claim to be “a bit of a fan” of LEGO when it’s trending, but rapidly shy away when it’s not.
Bearing everything in mind – including the location – that’s probably expected.
After months of anticipation, and around two years of hype, for me the experience was over in just 15 minutes. (I was out in 25 minutes, only because I had to finish my food.)
While I’m not hoping for a fall, I can’t see The Brick Bar lasting long as a concept. It greatly suffered/suffers from being a couple of years too late, and arguably having very little to do with LEGO. Perhaps it’s just as well that it’s a pop-up venue.
If I were tasked with setting something like this up, I would place far more emphasis on building than a nightlife experience.
That would mean having chairs, tables, play areas, and those sorely missing competitions and build-offs.
There would be the choice to build (on one’s own, or with others), or to party.
There would be souvenirs, even if only those brick cups from the bar.
(There would not be those screaming entitled kids, nor their parents.)
But… it would be for people actually interested in LEGO.
If you’re still interested in checking The Brick Bar out yourself, you can purchase tickets for their May event in London – or check out the official site for their appearance in other parts of the world.