by Kyle Raymond Fitzpatrick
At the edge of LA’s Highland Park neighborhood, a group called the Happy Hour Agency has attracted a reputation for making good times by creating experiences that combine inventive cocktail-making with a pop art sensibility. The group has crafted of slew of eye-catching, photogenic events that roll out for a single night every few months, from the whimsical and woodland Cozy Castle to the future-focused Hypertube. Their most recent Chateau Le Sploosh is no exception—a concept that feels like a culinary water park set against a neon pastel seaside.
Happy Hour got their start in 2014 with their initial Chilligan’s Island bar. They’re the product of creative fusion. The group includes event and marketing coordinator Connie Shen, graphic designer Eliana Dominguez, master bartender Irene Martinez, and artist Ben Sanders. The foursome is a contemporary take on an art collective, a mind-meld of creatives who use Happy Hour as a very public, very inventive side hustle.
“The whole point is to build community along with making an art-meets-cocktail setting that is interesting and exciting,” Shen explains before describing Le Sploosh as “French Riviera meets Raging Waters.” The colorful experiences that Happy Hour make are the result of the group meeting every week to think up new ideas that are both rigid but open ended. After an idea is settled upon, getting it up and running doesn’t take too long.
“We give ourselves about two months, if it’s an idea that’s coming from scratch,” Shen says. Once a concept is literally built—from fabricating bars to painting murals, developing cocktails to collaborating with chefs for food—the group opens tickets to the public and will repeat experiences by revamping the drinks menu to keep an idea fresh and seasonal.
There is a great sense of play here too. While the Happy Hour setting may change, their experiences are always fun, seen by way of drinks like the Cocoboat 62 which is served in a suntan lotion bottle and dishes like Pistachios Á La Dischothéque which are doused in arak and lit on fire for guests to warm themselves. “We try to do things that are a little bit off-kilter,” Shen says. This way, experiences are “open to interpretation for us and also for the people that are attending.”
This is what Happy Hour aspires to do: keep guests guessing and keep themselves busy through these creative challenges. “What we really want to do is be looked at as an agency that can create content for other people,” Shen says. “How do we adapt what we have created in the form of our pop-ups into something that can be neatly packaged that can be done elsewhere, outside the comfort of our space?”
While ideas like Chateau Le Sploosh will continue through September, the group is already getting itchy about trying something completely different. Thus is the nature of a collective. “We—the four of us—are a constant moving machine,” Shen says. “What we do bridges a lot of different spaces together and I feel like the four of us do a really great job of navigating all those different spaces in a way that is really cool.”
Images courtesy of Chateau Le Sploosh