It’s a sunny Tuesday afternoon and light streams into the Splintered Wand, Ballard’s highly anticipated magic and fantasy-focused pub, hitting the visage of a large dragon head on one of the walls. Co-owner Geoffrey Thaddeus Constantine Balch (who goes by his centuries-old wizard character name, even in interviews) explains that the dragon is named Boreas and he came crashing through the wall one day driven by the north wind. There are large iron manacles near one floorboard of the bar, which Balch explains once held Boreas’s gigantic appendages, but the staff “didn’t know quite what to do with him,” so the dragon stayed where he was, keeping a watchful eye over the place.
As final preparations for the Splintered Wand’s long-delayed opening continue “it’s important to get all the little details right” to create an immersive experience, says Balch. The bathrooms have brass steampunk-like pipes, as well as dragon heads on the faucets. There’s a skeleton hanging out at the far corner of the bar, which Balch says is the remains of Reginald P. Hibbs, a wizard who died drunk, muttering spells (“he was kind of an asshole”). Hanging from the ceiling is the Ballard Sea Monster, an homage to an early 20th-century hoax photograph. The taps are filled with mead, and there are recreations of 19th century absinthe fountains. On the shelves are Easter eggs from a variety of different mythologies from around the world, as well as pop culture, including a copy of the Handbook for the Recently Deceased from “Beetlejuice.”
Balch and his partner, Andrea Ravnholm (also an alias) purchased the historic flatiron building in 2018, and soon announced their plans to create a wizard-themed brewpub and wand shop, only to see those plans slowed by the pandemic. In 2021, the project gained more momentum, and the bar is now closer to making its debut, as first reported by My Ballard.
Although it’s not quite there yet. There’s a fire permit to take care of, as well as understandable concerns over the spread of the extremely contagious delta variant. Since the Splintered Wand’s goal is to be a draw for families, as well as adults, if kids under the age of 12 can’t get vaccinated, Balch says he would have big concerns about indoor service, even if the place instituted a policy that required proof of vaccination to enter. He emphasizes that health precautions for staff and customers is paramount, and doesn’t mind waiting a bit longer to open (it will be reservation-only to start, whenever that is, and eventually have outdoor seating).
Delays aside, Balch was still happy to give a tour of the striking three-story building, currently filled with all manner of artifacts, sculptures, baubles, and ephemera. On the first floor in the back is the actual bar, which will be absinthe focused, with special glasses meant to enhance the flavor of the potent spirit, and a metal drip tool designed to hold a sugarcube at the top of the vessel. “There’s not a cocktail alive that requires ceremony like absinthe,” says Balch. Part of bar service will include vials, droppers, and other tools of the trade presented on a tray with instructions for patrons to construct their own “potions,” which might include smoke, flames, and vapor. There will be 12 different drink options on the menu in three tiers ranging from non-alcoholic to hair-raising.
The food side is still coming into focus, but snacks will general skew toward English pub fare, with fanciful names developed for a variety of pasties, sandwiches, and entrees such as pork shank. The desserts will likely be over-the-top in terms of presentation, with edible glitter and the like (one can expect some boozy cotton candy, too). And Balch says the popular local chain Full Tilt will provide a few ice cream options to be served in the space.
Moving upstairs to the second floor, visitors will find the wand shop, one of the main features of the Splintered Wand. Here, people will be able to order a custom wood wand made onsite based on their month of birth, and then wave that wand over various containers filled with “essences” that pulsate with light, before zeroing in on the essence that “chooses them” to power the wand. There’s a whole history and mythology behind the process at the Splintered Wand’s offshoot wand business, Piscataqua & Balch.
The third floor is an events space called the Euphorium, where Balch and Ravenholm plan to host parties, Tarot readings, spell casting classes, and specific activities for kids, such as constructing fairy houses. Like everywhere else in the Splintered Wand, the room itself leans into the larger theme, with a full suit of armor standing in one corner and goth-like portraits (including a “living” one with motion graphics) along the walls, depicting the “Balch family lineage” in all its weird glory. Those who ask can take home an orphaned troll or orc child — dolls that are part of a yet another fantastical side story of the place, as Balch says few fantasy fans “think of the children” when it comes to the bloody Lord of the Rings-like wars that leave many young creatures parentless.
If all that sounds like a bit much, the Splintered Wand doesn’t really mind. Balch, Ravenholm, and company have calculated that there are plenty of fantasy fans in the city who will get a huge kick out of the intricacies that went into preparing the place. And they’re likely not wrong. Seattle has certainly earned its reputation as a geek friendly locale, where a broad range of gamers, collectors, and aficionados can find activities that suit their greatest passions, whether it’s Emerald City Comic Con or a neighborhood Dungeons & Dragons-friendly coffee shop. If all goes well — and Boreas behaves — the Splintered Wand could be another popular gathering space for magic fans and friends. “I see it as a weird community center,” says Balch.