Coolest place in town
Nancy Benson pulled up to the bar and ordered a cold one.
Cold is what they serve at the Ice Bar & Lounge. The Mayo Clinic employee was soon sipping from a martini glass made of ice, while sitting at a U-shaped bar also made of ice. And the bar stool she was sitting on? That, too, was fashioned from a block of ice.
"It's really cool — literally," Benson said.
The Ice Bar & Lounge opened for business on Thursday at the Peace Plaza in downtown Rochester, the first of a three-day engagement as part of the city's WinterFest activities.
Here, customers don't simply endure the cold, they revel in it. From the ice couch covered with fur, to the ice glasses and tumblers, to the 52-foot ice bar it's all very cool.
Against this all-encompassing cold, customers arrived bundled up in coats, scarves and hats, gathered around heaters and a fire pit and warmed themselves in the convivial atmosphere of small groups of friends and co-workers.
"Anything outdoors in Minnesota during the winter time, I'm up for it," said Laurie Barr, a Rochester resident who sat at the bar with her husband, Kelly. The idea was all the more alluring after being cooped up inside the house all winter, she said.
The novelty was a big part of the draw, patrons said. WinterFest has always specialized in ice sculptures and winter-oriented activities. But never has it featured an ice bar, at least one as elaborately planned and constructed as this.
"It's the longest (bar) in southeast Minnesota that I have been able to find," said Heidi Mestad, director of community engagement for the Rochester Downtown Alliance and the visionary behind the ice bar.
John Verzosa took a sip from his vodka-laced chocolate cake shot and handed it to his wife, Grace.
"This is something unique," said John Verzosa, a native of of the Philippine Islands. It's not going to happen in the Philippines."
About 6 tons of ice were used to make the bar, bar stools and an ice couch, Mestad said. Flashing blue lights throughout the plaza and live bands transformed the plaza into a cool lounge. Band members don't have to play in the cold — they perform each day in the skyway overlooking the plaza and the music is piped into the bar area via wireless technology.
For Dave Jasperson, the ice bar was definitely a first. Exhaling clouds of frost-tinged breath, Jasperson explained that his wife had invited him to join her at the bar.
"I said, 'I'm in, baby,'" he said. "It's definitely a first time for me. I've never done anything like this. Everybody should do it once."
B4: More pictures from the ice bar