Gorilla Cinema's Overlook Lodge (photo by Hailey Bollinger)
Food + Drink

Meet the Bar Owner Creating Spots Inspired by Movies

Jacob Trevino’s Gorilla Cinema gets creative in Cincinnati with cocktail bars that reflect the feel of some of our favorite films.

What exactly is Cincinnati’s Gorilla Cinema? It’s been described as a “hospitality group,” one that offers imaginative bar and restaurant concepts. It’s also been labeled “a creative experience company.”

Begun in 2014 as a series of pop-up events to bring together people who love movies, drinks and food, Gorilla Cinema today has a number of brick-and-mortar establishments in the Queen City, along with its continuing pop-ups, each one with a unique and entertaining theme.

As founder and owner Jacob Trevino explains, “We want to spark wonder and curiosity in our patrons in an environment they’re not likely to forget. For that reason, each of our properties tells a story of some sort with food and beverage to accompany it. Our hope is to create environments people are actually excited to visit, one that surprises them and even ignites their imagination.”

Currently, Gorilla Cinema properties that combine cocktails and dining with immersive experiences are Tokyo Kitty, a “Lost in Translation”-themed Japanese karaoke bar with seven private rooms; The Overlook Lodge with rustic decor reminiscent of the Overlook Hotel in “The Shining”; and The Lonely Pine Steakhouse with a mid-century modern motif inspired by the mythic Route 66.

Also among the mix is La Ofendra Tequila, paying homage to Trevino’s roots in south Texas and his Mexican grandparents. With one of Cincinnati’s largest selections of tequila and mezcal, the bar conjures up the 1940s Mexican cinema. Trevino recently sold another long-time establishment, Tiki Tiki Bang Bang, a tiki-themed speakeasy, to its former manager.

“I fully expect the passionate employees there will pick up the torch and run with it,” he says.

Gorilla Cinema’s newest establishment, Cosmic Gorilla, located near Findlay Market, is a comic book store filled with a wide variety of pop culture merchandise. The bar associated with it, however, is a perfect example of how Gorilla Cinema’s creative team is constantly reinventing its spaces.

When it opened in 2021, the bar operated as a superhero themed establishment called Capes and Cloaks. That was followed by a wizard-themed bar called Pennifold’s Pub, making a nod to Harry Potter, and then Galactic Cantina, paying homage to the bar for bounty hunters in the original Star Wars movie. That will be followed by — who knows?

“My amazing creative team generates so many ideas, we’re constantly thinking of new concepts to create,” Trevino explains.

That creative team includes Trevino’s wife, Katie, the company’s creative director. Their fondness for creating memorable pop-up events (like past ones set in a Pan Am layover lounge) will continue with the Horror Movie Survival Camp weekly event with viewings of horror movies at the Overlook Lodge next door, as well as the Christmas-themed Miracle at the Overlook.

Late this year or in early 2024, Gorilla Cinema’s empire will extend outside Cincinnati when a yet-to-be-named Palm Springs cocktail bar opens in Dublin’s Bridge Park.

Expect any cocktail you order at a Gorilla Cinema establishment to be as imaginative as the bar’s atmosphere. The Overlook Lodge’s Writer’s Block is a case in point with its mix of tea-infused bourbon, apple berry sweet tea and St. Germain.

Likewise, the cocktail called Kissu at Tokyo Kitty is a blend of Captain Morgan Coconut, Strawberry Pucker, banana milk and Coco Lopez. Margarita lovers can choose from a variety of flavors (not to mention dozens of types of tequila) at La Ofrenda Tequila, even avocado.

“Often we’ll take classic cocktail recipes and mix them up by adding one new ingredient to add an element of surprise,” Trevino says. “Surprise is what we’re all about.” 

Proof Magazine is for Ohio spirit lovers. It is produced by Great Lakes Publishing three times a year. Dont miss an issue by subscribing to Ohio Magazine. View a digital version of the Proof Magazine Winter 2023 edition here