Cincinnati Refined tasked me with the assignment of interviewing Jacob Trevino, Gorilla Cinema Presents founder and owner of movie-themed bars The Overlook Lodge and the The Video Archive, dubbing him the city’s “most interesting bar owner.” What makes him worthy of such a title?
Not even Trevino knows.
“I’ve never thought of myself as ‘interesting’” Trevino says with a laugh at a table inside The Overlook, wearing an E.T. t-shirt while the movie coincidentally plays on a wall-mounted TV behind him. To illustrate his point, the obvious film fanatic draws a comparison between himself and George Bailey, the protagonist of the 1946 holiday classic, It’s A Wonderful Life (which happens to be Trevino’s all-time favorite movie).
"Is George Bailey interesting?” he asks rhetorically. “No, he's just a guy, but he wants to do the right thing, and I think that's what I really latch on to about that story. We're just two guys trying to make the world a better place in very small increments.”
And as it turns out, such ordinary aspirations are what make Trevino — who has a decidedly un-George Bailey-like buoyancy — interesting. “Hopefully, when you come to the bars, you see a smile and a sense of community,” he says. “That's the kind of thing that makes a city a wonderful place to live.”
Cincinnati Refined recently spoke with Trevino about his plans for a third bar, how he’s keeping things interesting at his current watering holes, and the dream idea he hopes will one day come to fruition.
Cincinnati Refined: So my assignment today is to interview the coolest bar owner in Cincinnati.
Jacob Trevino: [Laughs] That makes me blush because I've never aspired to be the “most” of anything. I remember watching Michael Phelps in the Olympics and being asked, “Would you rather be Michael Phelps or the guy chasing Michael Phelps?” and I said, “I always want to be the guy chasing whoever's on top.” That's what pushes me to be more creative and to keep pushing the boundaries.
CR: And who are chasing? You’ve worked with Molly Wellmann, Jose Salazar…
JT: [Laughs] You're going to get me in trouble! To me, the Cincinnati bar community is becoming more of a true community. We have tried to make ourselves different from one another, and I think that allows us to be more supportive, because we're not all trying to do craft cocktails anymore. There's some real innovation happening, and I think that makes it easier to be friends.
CR: In two years you’ve opened two bars, The Overlook Lodge and The Video Archive. Any plans for a third?
JT: Yes, because we’re insane! It opens in January at 575 Race Street and is called Tokyo Kitty. It is a Japanese karaoke bar with private rooms loosely based off Lost in Translation. There is this really interesting exchange that happens between Japanese and American culture in that movie, and so this bar kind of lands right in the middle of that intersection of American nightclub life and Japanese game show minimalism. With this bar, we're really looking at technology, and so we have the East Coast’s first bartending robots.
CR: Wait, what?!
JT: Well, it's more of a drink delivery system. It’s called B-bot. It's an “assistant” to the bartenders that helps deliver the drinks. So if you're in the private karaoke room, you can order from your room; the bartender makes the drink, and the robot brings it to you.
CR: How cool. What other interesting things are up your sleeve?
JT: For the holidays, here at The Overlook, we're doing what we’re calling Miracle Bar, where we've teamed up with Cocktail Kingdom to create this immersive holiday experience. From the glassware down to the décor, it's not going to feel like The Overlook Lodge anymore. It's still going to have this real homey feel, but it's going to be a completely new menu with completely new experiences throughout the week. It's going to be the kind of place that feels like the holidays should, but then amplify that by, like, a hundred!
CR: I love it already.
JT: Then, at The Video Archive, we're doing what we’re calling The Yuletide Nightmare, which is based off Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. The “video store” is going away, and you’ll enter through the woods and see all the holiday doors on the trees, just like in the movie, and the holiday doors will open up. Starting the week of Halloween, it will be Halloween Town; and then, as we get closer to the holidays, you'll see it morph and transform, even the drinks.
CR: It sounds like something my three-year-old would also enjoy.
JT: [Laughs] Well, I wouldn’t bring a three-year-old, but I do think that’s a reason why the bars have been successful. A lot of what is magical in this world is really aimed at children, and I think adults need an escape too. This is not a comparison at all, but I think Walt Disney was a great creator, and that's what I hope I can do. He did things really well for kids and families, and maybe I can do that really well for adults.
CR: Speaking of imagination, what’s the most outrageous idea in your head right now?
JT: I've got like three or four going, but something I've always wanted to do but don’t think I’ll ever be able to make it happen is show King Kong on top of Carew Tower. There's just no way they'll ever let us bring all the equipment and gear we need up there. Plus, you can't fit that many people up there, so it would be for, like, 20 people. It would be so much work, but I think it would be so amazing.
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Are you listening, Carew Tower executives? In case you need further convincing, check out The Overlook Lodge and The Video Archive in person after getting a peek inside both spaces by clicking on the gallery above.