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Dead Lagoon, ‘A Horrifying, Tropical Pop-Up Experience’ Emerges in Detroit

The former crew from Lost River wants you to embrace your inner sea monster while sipping tropical drinks

A woman with dark hair and bangs pouring alcohol into a cup with a twisty straw and garnishments. Dead Lagoon
Serena Maria Daniels is the editor for Eater Detroit.

A pair of bartending veterans who until recently helmed the bar at the east side tiki-inspired Lost River have taken their tropical drink-making repertoire and are hitting the road for their next chapter in the camp-filled world of tiki: Dead Lagoon. Founders Michael Lloyd and Hannah Whitnack present the venture as an inspiration that intersects mid-century tiki culture and B-list horror movies to inform both the kitschy aesthetic and drink offerings.

“Once a thriving oasis known by a forgotten name, until an unspeakable act of darkness was committed in its waters. Inhabitants of this paradise instantly disappeared and travelers who would come from far and wide to enjoy its offerings, were warned to never return. All was thought to be lost…” reads an introduction to the pop-up. “However, rumors of movement beneath the waters have started making their way to surrounding islands. Some say these stories are untrue, just to keep voyagers away; yet others say the spirits of its former Inhabitants have returned. Reasons and intentions are unknown, but If you seek the truth they are calling you to Dead Lagoon.”

So sets the retro tropical-horror vibes that round out a Dead Lagoon experience.

To hone in on the genre, Lloyd and Whitnack play a rotation of B-list monster movies like Creature from the Black Lagoon in the background, as well as curated playlists with a mix of jazzy/psychedelic/surfer music, and a lineup of rum-leaning cocktails that rotate weekly.

“Tiki was founded on escapism,” says Whitnack, who was recently featured in an article for Bartender on women in bartending. “Tiki bars usually don’t have windows and there [are] certain things [you need] to check the box to be a tiki bar is to take you away to a different place so we’re just kind of expanding upon that, but like dialing it in more specifically with a horror [theme].”

Just shy of a month into the new venture, Lloyd and Whitnack have already popped up at out-of-town venue Chopper in Nashville and at Mutiny Bar in southwest Detroit for a month-long residency in April. In the coming weeks, the duo will hit the road again with stops at the Inferno Room in Indianapolis and Jungle Bird in Kalamazoo.

The pair launched the roaming tropical bartending project in early March, shortly after the ownership of Lost River announced that it would be taking a brief hiatus reflect on its next steps, prompting much of the staff — including Lloyd and Whitnack — to depart. The temporary shutter came a couple of months after owners Matt Mergener and Karen Green launched Apt. Disco, a 70s-themed lounge and cocktail bar located just above.