Christmas Island lands on OBX: Holiday pop-ups take over Kill Devil Hills this December

Published 2:53 pm Monday, November 21, 2022

This December, locals and visitors alike will have the opportunity to experience the holiday season like never before. For the first time, four restaurants have teamed up to bring Christmas to the Outer Banks in the form of a pop-up Christmas Island, featuring four festive pop-up bars, decked out and ready to celebrate and spread holiday cheer with the community.

Mark Ballog, owner and founder of Lucky 12 Tavern, is the catalyst behind this unique experience of converting an establishment into a pop-up holiday bar/restaurant. Inspired by Miracle Pop Up Bar, a Christmas-themed cocktail bar that serves festive drinks and snacks, Ballog decided a few years ago to bring that same concept to the beach. His passion for driving business during the slow season while bringing joy to the town has led to an incredible success rate at “Jingle 12,” his very own pop-up Christmas bar. Because of the huge turnout over the years, Ballog knew it could grow into something much bigger. Something the area hasn’t ever seen before.

“I started doing my Christmas bar as a way to make December busier and make it fun,” Ballog shared with The Coastland Times. After realizing just how busy Jingle 12 was, he shared the idea of expanding the concept through multiple restaurants with John Kirchmier, owner of The Bonzer Shack, who Ballog had worked under at Quagmires years prior. “He had mentioned to me that he wants to create a Christmas destination for the Outer Banks,” Kirchmier shared. “I was lukewarm towards it at first, but I called back a month later to tell him I was in.”

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Kevin Cherry, owner of Mama Kwan’s Grill & Tiki Bar, had also worked with the two restaurateurs at Quagmires. “We all thought it was an ingenious idea,” Cherry said in regard to Ballog’s pop-up Christmas bar. “Mark wanted everyone to jump on board. I approached Mark about the idea and said I wouldn’t want to step on toes. But there was plenty of business to go around, and we agreed to work in unison.”

Karen Hennigan, who owns Goombays Grille and Raw Bar with husband Charlie, shared that after experiencing Jingle 12 for the first time last season, they were interested in getting involved. “Mark always had a grand vision and pop-up Christmas bars is the ultimate dream,” she said. “He has always been a very helpful, enthusiastic friend and restaurateur.” Hennigan was excited to take the opportunity to join in on the concept and the four establishments came together to decide the best course of action for this grand idea.

With Ballog taking the lead, the restaurants owners began working on gathering Christmas supplies, décor, menu ideas and event plans. Each pop-up bar will feature a unique theme, name and festive dining experience starting December 1.

Jingle 12 will stay true to its roots and feature vintage Christmas décor with a cocktail and snack menu that plays off of the classic Christmas films. Reservations can be made at various outdoor dining stations in the backyard, including inflatable, brightly-lit igloos, the festive Lucky 12 Ski Lodge and Camp Claus. Guests can enjoy a Christmas market, an adult gingerbread house-making contest, a pop-up brunch, “Toys for Tots” charity events and much more during the holiday season at Jingle 12.

The Bonzer Shack will take on a whole new look next month as it morphs into “The Broken Candy Cane,” otherwise known as a Christmas villain’s favorite lair. Themed after the villains of classic Christmas films, such as the Grinch, Bumble, Heat Miser and Cold Miser and more, this bad guy bar will feature a special menu with events for guests of all ages. Kirchmier shared that The Broken Candy Cane will host a Grinch scavenger hunt, a Whoville tapas night, a Christmas market and more throughout the month of December. “We’re going all out.”

Goombays will transform into a winter wonderland as it becomes “Goombrrrs.” Styling the restaurant with classic yet modern décor, guests will walk into a world of white, gold and silver starting December 1. Events throughout the month will include a Christmas cookie exchange and a “Bad Santa” night with live music and tastings by Kill Devil Rum. But first, visitors can enjoy the “Sip, Savor & Shop” holiday market that will take place November 22 at 4 p.m. featuring the work of local artisans.

The Outer Banks will also welcome “Mama Klaus’s” this December, a pop-up holiday tiki hut that will take over Mama Kwan’s. Cherry was excited to share that this Hawaiian-themed pop-up will feature a tropical twist on classic Christmas bites. Along with the events that Mama Klaus’s will host, visitors will get the chance to feel the Christmas spirit from inside and out, as Cherry shared that he has gotten ahold of thousands of lights to make the restaurant shine. The tall live oak that resides on the property will act as their Christmas tree, adorned with ornaments and lights. The building to the south side of the restaurant, formerly Peace of the Pie, will act as a self-guided holiday display, where guests can walk through and take photos.

All are invited to gather and enjoy the holiday season at the OBX’s first Christmas Island, where “the more, the merrier!”