World Building

Dreamland’s Patio Is Now an Immersive Tropical Sci-Fi Bar

It’s called Carnelian Bay—a land of grottos, tiger fountains, and neo-tropical drinks.

By Allecia Vermillion June 1, 2022

Just your typical cyber-delic martian roadhouse.

One night, owner Paul Shanrock was behind the bar at Dreamland in Fremont when he noticed one of his regulars wearing a hoodie that repped the name of his fabrication business, Haskett Works.

He begged his customer, “Dan, come look at this.”

“This” turned out to be Dreamland’s patio, a concrete slab whose primary decor was a roll-cage door used to secure liquor bottles. Soon that regular, Dan Haskett, was helping transform that bare concrete.

Now, you’ll find a grotto filled with alien flora, a giant tiger head fountain that growls and mists, and a mythology that makes Dr. Who seem straightforward and underdeveloped. This week it’s been reborn as a separate bar: an enclosed and heated year-round space called Carnelian Bay.

If it’s possible to put such a place in simple terms, Carnelian Bay will be an immersive bar, thrusting visitors into a tropical sci-fi world Shanrock describes as a “cyber-delic Martian roadhouse.” It was a markedly different project than Haskett’s usual jobs. “Before I knew it, we were writing lore and backstory” he says. “I needed to understand why this grotto’s here.”

With tiki bars falling out of favor due to cultural appropriation, creative cocktail folks like Shanrock are turning to immersive bars, the industry term for watering holes that transport you to another world, often a fantastical one. Carnelian Bay’s world involves an estuary moon, an extinct race of tiger-cat people, and a luxe hotel chain. I’d tell you all will be revealed on the menu, but that’s not quite right: Shanrock says that text will come with a cliffhanger, to be resolved in next season’s menu change.

Dreamland will still hold its popular weekend drag brunch out here, but when night falls and the carefully considered lighting situation powers on, this becomes its own space, with a separate food and drink menu from the one inside at Dreamland (but you can order Dreamland items out here).

Shanrock learned the power of atmosphere at his original outpost, Stampede Cocktail Club. The bar, just a few blocks away, has a jungle room, a great patio, and menus that mimic the progression of an old-school video game, complete with cheat codes.

Dreamland opened in 2020 in the former home of the historic Red Door tavern building. Even in fraught times, the bar soon established itself as a cocktail juggernaut with all-day breakfast. Shanrock lined the ceiling of the restroom hallway with disco balls, and gave the space its own floating city mythology. (Yes, Carnelian Bay’s backstory fits into the Dreamland world…this isn’t Shanrock’s first mythical rodeo.)

Carnelian Bay will serve “neo-tropical” drinks like a toasted marshmallow daiquiri and a blue Hawaiian-esque galaxy slushy that swirls with edible glitter. The cocktail menu is arranged in three acts; the food is mostly bar snacks like honey walnut torpedo shrimp, green papaya salad, and deconstructed crab rangoon. “Like the Copacabana in space,” says Shanrock. “It’s gonna be fun.”

Even visitors immune to the lure of sci-fi can appreciate the handsome new tables with inlaid brass, and little easter eggs, like an Audrey 2 plant from Little Shop of Horrors. Carnelian Bay will (hopefully) open in earnest on June 10 and has its own Instagram, which will announce any changes to that plan.

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