It seems that the organizers behind an upcoming Pokémon pop-up bar didn’t actually ask Nintendo whether it could use the Pokémon name.
That means that the pop-up is effectively cancelled, and that events scheduled for numerous North American cities (including Montreal, Nashville, Detroit, Charleston, Boston, Las Vegas, and Seattle) will be re-branded into some kind of off-brand event to avoid getting its organizers into legal trouble. (So, it might go ahead, but it certainly won’t be “Pokémon-themed”.)
Named Pokébar, the pop-up was planning to offer an orgy of Instagram fodder, such as Pokémon themed food and drink (such as the burgers pictured above), costume contests, and said it would give attendees the opportunity to catch Pokémon themselves.
The issue here is pretty simple — the Pokémon brand (and its characters, like Pikachu) belongs (in part) to video game giant Nintendo. That means a member of the public can’t just make, say, a Pokémon-themed bar without permission from Nintendo, since they’re aiming to profit off of something that Nintendo owns.
Apparently, Viral Ventures, the Australian company behind Pokébar, didn’t bother to ask for that permission: According to the Denver Post, the Pokébar event in that city was cancelled just days before it was set to take place. The pop-up’s organizers cited an “unspecified directive” from Nintendo ordering them to change the event “despite [Pokébar] being unaffiliated with Pokémon Nintendo”. In a comment to Eater, a representative gave the exact same line, noting that all dates would be rescheduled, and that tickets would be refunded or transferred to the new event.
(Eater also reached out to Nintendo, but did not receive a response.)
Of course, it doesn’t really matter whether Viral Ventures was affiliated with Nintendo or not — it’s fairly well-known that if you want to create some kind of pop-culture themed event, you generally need to pay licensing fees to the creator or the company that owns the TV show, movie, or book being invoked.
What’s worse here is that Viral Ventures has made this exact mistake before: it previously devised a touring pop-up named Legobar, centred around the colourful children’s building blocks. Not long after that news came out, Lego declared it wanted nothing to do with the event, forcing it to rebrand as “Thebrickbar”. The pop-up eventually went ahead in some cities.
Viral Ventures is trying to push ahead with the pop-up, though: the Denver event has been pushed back several weeks, and attendees have reportedly been offered refunds or entry to the new event. The Pokébar website now redirects to an event called Monster Burger Bar, a “themed burger and trivia brunch”, and dates for the Pokébar event in other cities have been scrubbed from the internet. Tickets in many cities, including Montreal, had not yet gone on sale before the rebrand.
So, it seems that without the rights to use the name Pokémon or any of its characters, the company behind the pop-up is awkwardly trying to stage an off-brand version of the event. So, if you’re willing to throw down $45 to go to a “small colourful Japanese cartoon monsters brunch”, knock yourself out — just note that the event is definitely, totally, 100 percent not affiliated with Nintendo or the Pokémon brand.