Stemming from the success of Christmas Island in 2022, where four Outer Banks restaurants pulled out all the stops (and decorations), they have now expanded the roster for this holiday season that’s just six weeks away to an even dozen establishments for “The 12 Bars of Christmas“.
“Our community is one built on hard work and camaraderie,” said Lucky 12 owner Mark Ballog, who also sits on the Dare County Tourism Board as representative of the restaurant industry. “Seasons past, locals spent summers hustling to serve beachgoers, twiddling their thumbs as winds picked up and the temperatures dropped. The off seasons could be long and mundane.”
That’s what led Ballog and the staff at Lucky 12 back in 2019 to brainstorm and come up with a promotion unlike any other before it, totally re-themeing their popular Nags Head restaurant and bar on the Beach Road for December.
Jingle 12 is covered with authentic, 1950s plastic lighted Santas and reindeer, strings of vintage ceramic C9 lights, and other classic Christmas kitsch collected from all over the country.
They even brought the decorations out this summer for some Christmas in July.
In the backyard they built igloos, an ice fishing shanty, and even a ski lodge to sit in and enjoy holiday themed food and drink menus, and their expansive line-up of beers.
Stemming from the holiday spirit Jingle 12 brought to the Outer Banks, Ballog convinced Mama Kwan’s Tiki Bar and Grill to become Mama Klaus’s, Bonzer Shack morphed into The Broken Candy Cane, and Goombays Grille and Raw Bar became Goombrrs for Christmas Island 2022.
Along with the holiday-inspired food and drink selections, they held special events such as markets, contests, toy drives, brunches and more.
Ballog said the promotion was immediately successful for not just his restaurant, but all of the participating businesses.
“My first group last year came down from Great Bridge, and rented out the Muskie Lodge out back,” Ballog said. “They spent $550 in December, when they could have easily spent that in Chesapeake or Virginia Beach.”
“They said there’s nothing like this up there, and that’s when I realized this is something really special that we’re doing,” Ballog said. “It gets more people to come, even its just for the day or they rent a house for a week, they shop at our local businesses, and really help the Outer Banks economy in December.”
So with Christmas Island being so joyfully received by locals, visitors and the business community alike, it spurred the addition of eight more participants, and brings Manteo and Colington into the fun.
The 12 Bars of Christmas Outer Banks for 2023 consists of:
- Lucky 12 Tavern as “Jingle 12”
- Blue Water Grill & Raw Bar as “Aww Shucks”
- Outer Banks Distilling as “Deck the Hulls”
- Jolly Roger Restaurant as “Holly Jolly Christmas”
- Bonzer Shack as “The Broken Candy Cane”
- Goombays Grille & Raw Bar as “Goombrrrs”
- Blue Crab Tavern as “Sandy Claws”
- Outer Banks Brewing Station as “Christmas Vacation Station”
- Poor Richards Sandwich Shop as “Poor Rudolph’s”
- Two Roads Tavern as “McCallister’s Corner”
- Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint KDH “Jack Frost’s Cheer & Burger Joint”
- Mama Kwan’s Tiki Bar & Grill as “Mama Klaus’s”
Ballog noted they could have easily expanded to more spots. “There isn’t a 17 Days of Christmas, it’s twelve,” Ballog said.
Along with the special themes at each establishment, there will be a “crawl” that participants can take part in by making a $5 donation to the charity chosen by the bar where you buy the passport.
Everyone who completes the crawl gets an exclusive Christmas ornament, and entry into drawings for 12 $25 gift cards, 12 $50 gift cards, and a grand prize of 12 $100 gift cards.
Plus, other businesses that are not normally open during Decemeber are participating, such as Surfin’ Spoon making an ice cream sandwich that is only available at the participating locations. T-shirts and other memorabilia has been designed and printed locally.
Ballog emphasized that due to the various hours and dates of operations, and the specials that each bar will offer, you need to regularly check www.12barsofchristmas.com for the latest updates.
The 12 Bars of Christmas also ties into the Outer Banks Visitor’s Bureau’s OBXMas promotion, which has the full listing of all the holiday-related events that will be taking place from one end of the Outer Banks to the other.
“It’s kind of cool how it’s going to get the entire community involved, whether it’s the lifelong locals or the people who just moved here, they bring their kids and grandkids out, or the folks who just come in for the weekend,” Ballog said. “The increased activities and business for December is just great for everyone.”