Event planners seeking a fool-proof method to facilitate true team bonding need look no further than the North Loop’s peculiar new attraction, Upstairs Circus.
“People come in looking confused—they’re seeing toolboxes and hair dryers and wondering, ‘what is this place?’ After guests take in the atmosphere and the concept, it’s a lot of fun to see them get inspired and tap into their creativity,” says Shannon Schmidt, co-owner of the Minneapolis location.
With its Parisian circus décor scheme, featuring bold, striped floors and a colorful ceiling strung with vintage umbrellas, the whimsical new arts-and crafts bar puts its own spin on the popular wine and paint concept. Guests create self-guided DIY projects while enjoying craft cocktails, wine, beer and snacks. Participants can choose from a wide variety of projects of varying skill levels ($36-$39 per person) ranging from distressed wood art and custom stamped jewelry to magnetic shelves and knit infinity scarves. Projects can be completed in one to three hours and Upstairs Circus staff provide guests with all necessary supplies and instructions.
Groups can bond while working on individual projects or can work together to create a more customized, collaborative project. Collaborative projects, which can be adapted from the original project menu, customized to include branding, or concepted with the help of the Upstairs Circus team, provide a chance to get colleagues working hands-on together toward a common physical goal.
“You see people helping each other or working across the table together. You might start with a kind of quiet group, and then you see the right-brain side of people come out—even if they don’t think they have one—and they’re enjoying the music and having a couple of cocktails. The bonding happens naturally,” says Schmidt.
Schmidt recommends collaborative group sizes of eight to a maximum of 30 guests.
With 2,700 square feet, Upstairs Circus can accommodate 90-100 guests for crafting events and the venue can be split into three semiprivate spaces for smaller groups. The venue features a full bar with circus-themed drinks such as the Circus Donkey (a riff on the classic Moscow Mule) or the Mexican Circus (a spicy margarita), as well as a small in-house kitchen which serves shareable snacks such as flatbreads and cheese plates. With no preferred caterer, groups are free to bring in their own food as well.
Best of all, each group reservation comes complete with a ringmaster. Creative assistants are on-hand at all times to explain the Upstairs Circus process and menu, grab drink orders and help guests through any possible problem areas. “You can kind of tell when someone’s a little lost, so as the panicked look comes across their face we’re there to give assistance,” says Schmidt. Assistants can also help guests who may not believe they’re artistic or aren’t feeling up to a more complex project.
“Each project can be customized a million different ways and our team is here to guide guests through from start to finish. There are so many details planners have to deal with, but we take care of all of that when a group walks in the door. We’ve got it all covered,” says Schmidt.
Although the atmosphere of the downtown space is an experience in itself, the Upstairs Circus team can also bring projects off-site with its Traveling Circus program.
Upstairs Circus is available for full buyouts and custom packages. The venue can accommodate a total of 117 guests for cocktail parties or non-crafting events.