Electric Garden was packed on a recent Friday night. The Chicago bar was cast in a red Valentine glow and balloons dangled from the ceiling. The chatter from the crowd made it hard to hear the music — but if you listened closely, you’d only hear one artist playing: Taylor Swift.
This whole month, event planning company Bucket Listers and Electric Garden are playing host to a Taylor Swift-themed “heartbreak” bar. Swift has penned countless breakup anthems — from “Bad Blood” to “Better Than Revenge.” She captures heartbreak like no one else — which makes her the perfect choice for an anti-Valentine’s Day event.
Visitors can pose for photos with Taylor cardboard cut-outs and sit down with on-site tarot card readers. The menu boasts Swift-inspired cocktails such as the “Style,” a rosé punch with “Watermelon Sugar” — a little dig at ex-boyfriend Harry Styles.
On opening night Swifties filled the pop-up bar. One patron had only ever missed one Taylor Swift concert. When asked about favorite albums, fan Katy Sloka pulled up a detailed note on her phone.
“I listened to every single album and then ranked them all and ranked each song,” Sloka laughed.
For the record, her favorite album is Swift’s Speak Now.
Electric Garden owner Chris Johnston is also a Taylor Swift fan. “Shake It Off’ is a bit of an anthem for him when he plays baseball tournaments in Arizona.
“And if we lose a game, it’s just a thing where I just start turning ‘Shake it Off’ on for the entire team. Just shake it off a little bit guys,” Johnston said.
The pop-up is heartbreak themed — so there were a wide variety of opinions on Valentine’s Day itself. Some loved it — like a couple who were celebrating their 11-year dating anniversary. Others, not so much.
“I hate Valentine’s Day. It’s such an overrated holiday,” said patron Brittany Panza.
But Katy Sloka — the fan who ranked every album and every song — was actually on a first date.
“We met on Hinge. One of my prompts was I geek out on Taylor Swift and she slid up and was like, ‘Oh my gosh I love Taylor,’ ” she said.
Despite the heartbreak theme, Sloka and her date Stef Luthin thought the pop-up would be a perfect first date spot — given their shared love of all things Taylor.
“Usually Valentine’s Day, it’s a bit of a bummer, but I was like this year, little hopeful,” Luthin said.
I’m not currently in a relationship, so I wasn’t particularly excited for Valentine’s Day this year. But after a night of breakup anthems, hopeful first dates and the joy of die-hard fans, I’ll admit — I felt a little hopeful about the day too.
If you go: Bad Blood: A Taylor Inspired Heartbreak Bar will be open until Feb. 26 at Electric Garden, located at 324 S. Racine Ave.
Indira Khera is a Metro Reporter with WBEZ. Follow her @KheraIndi.