An immersive, jazz-filled, 1920s-esque night with a unique beertail or mocktail in hand is exactly what liberal arts and engineering studies senior Sawyer Koelsch had in mind when planning her senior project, the Nickel and Dime Pop-Up Speakeasy.
The speakeasy will be held in two sessions, both on Sunday, May 26. The first session will be from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and the second from 9 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. at 7 Sisters Brewing Company on 181 Tank Farm Road in San Luis Obispo.
Koelsch’s visit to the Blind Rabbit speakeasy in Anaheim for her 21st birthday sparked her inspiration for her own speakeasy event, she said.
“I fell in love with the entire atmosphere and background behind [the speakeasy], which is very secretive and very illusive, but also makes you feel like a whole new person when you go into this space and you feel very disconnected from the entire world,” Koelsch said.
Her version of a speakeasy will feature a live jazz band, a specialty menu with new beer cocktails crafted with local beers and other special ingredients, all taking place in a completely transformed, roaring ‘20s, prohibition era-themed space.
Although the event features alcohol and a roaring ‘20s theme, all ages are welcome. Craft root beer and kombucha mocktails will be available for guests under the age of 21.
Koelsch had two quarters to bring the speakeasy vision to life. She spent seven weeks looking for a company to co-host her event and eventually found co-owner of 7 Sisters Brewing Company and biological sciences professor Emily Taylor. They coordinated with one another for about 11 weeks to plan the event.
“They were just willing to let me take creative reign on everything and really execute what I want to do. They just really believed in the vision from the get-go,” Koelsch said.
As a Cal Poly professor, Taylor’s life revolves around Cal Poly students, she said, which is why she was willing to take on this project with Koelsch.
“I make it my explicit goal that if a student is asking us [at 7 Sisters Brewing Company] to do something that we actually think is feasible and is mutually beneficial to both of us, that we will try to do it,” Taylor said.
Koelsch will give a presentation the week following her event, along with a written paper about how to execute a pop-up event and business plan.
Taylor said she is looking forward to getting more college students visiting 7 Sisters Brewing Company for the event because their usual clientele, she said, is older than college students. Taylor said she imagines her usual “airy, cheery and industrial vibe” brewery space to be completely transformed for the night into Koelsch’s vision.
“It’s not going to be people in flapper outfits. That’s not the vibe [Koelsch] is looking for. She is more for kind of a dark and jazz-filled space where people are enjoying drinks and hushed tones,” Taylor said.
Since the event will take place during a holiday weekend, many Cal Poly students will be out of town, which has been the biggest challenge for the event, Koelsch and Taylor said. Working with a limited budget has also been difficult, Koelsch said, but it has led to making deals with local businesses.
“It’s honestly been a massive crash course on business relations. It has taught me so much about how to interact with different companies, how to leverage what you need versus what they need, and how you can help each other out,” Koelsch said.
Koelsch said she plans to move forward with other immersive events, the experience industry and project management in the future. She said she hopes this event will offer a new experience away from downtown and bring students and residents together to celebrate the small business roots of San Luis Obispo.
Tickets are $20 for guests 21 and over, which includes admission and a beertail, or just a beer, and $12 for guests under 21, which includes admission and a mocktail. Koelsch said guest can use promo code “gigglejuice” for $2 off tickets through the night before the event.