Waldo's continues mission for substance-free fun with new 'after hours' menu

The downtown hangout introduces mocktails to its cafe offerings, adding one more reason for all ages to come enjoy the space.

Waldo's continues mission for substance-free fun with new 'after hours' menu
The non-alcoholic strawberry daiquiri was a popular choice at Waldo's Mocktail Party.

Sounds of jazz music wafted over a packed crowd at Waldo’s last Friday night, with clusters of attendees adorned in sequined dresses and dapper suits milling around, engaged in conversation with drinks in hand.

They sipped on gin and tonics, moscow mules and the evening’s popular special, a pear punch. It was a scene straight from any posh New York City bar, with one important difference: all of the drinks were alcohol free.

Founded by a group of local artists, Waldo’s & Company has served as a late-night hangout for Gettysburg since 2015. Offering specialty coffee drinks to go with lots of couches, chairs and table space, the nonprofit also hosts artists’ studios and tradeshops, an art gallery, a used bookstore, and a small stage for concerts and special events.

In a downtown with plenty of choices for bars and restaurants, Waldo’s looks to stand out as a space for social interaction without pressure or expectation. The goal has always been to create a fun place to go “for people under 21 or just of any age that don’t want to spend time in a bar,” said Chris Lauer, executive director.

Now, with the addition of a late-night menu, the arts nonprofit “is just kind of reinforcing the idea that one can be out after six and still have a good time without alcohol.”


Joy Thomas is a frequent visitor to Waldo's, citing its 'welcoming' atmosphere.

The event featured a mix of attendees of all ages, interests and backgrounds, a common scene for the bright wooded and bricked rooms tucked underneath Lark in the corner of Gettysburg’s square. It’s something that Joy Thomas of McSherrystown appreciates about the space.

“It’s really welcoming and open to everybody,” said Thomas, who is 42. “I always have a great time here.”

Thomas relocated to Gettysburg from California during the pandemic and said Waldo’s is the “main creative home” she has found in the area. And as far as the new menu options go, Thomas loved the idea.

“Personally I don’t drink but my partner does. I love coming somewhere where the whole menu is open to me,” she said. She tried a Dark and Stormy for the night, a drink made with nonalcoholic rum, ginger syrup and club soda.

Thomas gave her approval. “I like a good, dry ginger.”

Across the room, a group of five high schoolers stood in a semi-circle chatting and laughing. Regulars at Waldo’s, they had come to support friends playing in the jazz band and to take a break from musical theater rehearsals.

“They throw some pretty nice parties,” added Katie Hansen, an 18-year-old senior at Gettysburg Area High School. “The drinks are good, and it’s a good spot if we just want to hang out.”

“It just feels really safe,” said Bryce Smyers, 17, a junior at GAHS. He’s been coming to Waldo’s for the past four years or so.

Waldo's welcomed all ages to its mocktail party last Friday. Pictured left to right are Kim Heinzelmann, Bryce Smyers, Riley Sharp and Katie Hansen, all students at Gettysburg Area High School, with their friend Gloria Strettell of New York City.

The appeal to make everyone feel comfortable in the space is part of what David Sheads, a Waldo’s board member, calls “the community living room” effect. “There’s just no question about who’s welcome here.”

Sheads is a native of Gettysburg. “(Waldo’s) is what I wish Gettysburg had when I was a kid,” he added. “Whether or not you were an artist, you could hang out with other people who were doing creative things and talking about creative things.”

Lauer credits his hometown coffee house for shaping much of who he is today. He spent a lot of time “getting to know strangers, getting to know friends.” He wants to provide the same experience for others.

“Especially more now in the digital age, creating space for those interactions I think is incredibly important. Having a physical space where we’re interacting with people maybe we don’t even know,” he said.


Ethan Hartranft, bar lead, lays out several drinks for customers while Chris Lauer, Waldo's exective director, mixes a drink in the background.

Expanding the menu had been a discussion among leadership for a while, Lauer said. Part of the desire to create new drinks stemmed from searching for new ways to bring in more funding. (There is no set menu price for Waldo’s drinks. Patrons can pay whatever they feel it’s worth to support the space.) But it also grew out of the collective’s natural creative drive.

“I love even just foodie culture, like bringing in some new elements and kind of surprising Adams County with some new drinks and new ideas,” Lauer added.

The new standing menu features daytime specials in addition to the evening mocktails. Available until 7 p.m., one can order a carbonated mixed drink with fun names like “Apple Pie Town” or “Band Juice.” These feature natural flavors like lemon, honey, apple, vanilla and cinnamon.

After 7 p.m., the menu switches over to familiar bar staples, each composed from nonalcoholic house-made syrups. Some of the new offerings serve fresh takes on classics, like the customer favorite Café Old Fashioned, a twist that swaps cold brew coffee for whiskey.

Bar lead Ethan Hartfranft spearheaded the creation of the new line of drinks.

“I think mocktails align really well with Waldo's menu – handmade, interesting flavors, a creative process of discovery for both the maker and the drinker,” he said, noting the rise of ‘NA culture’ over the past few years.

He points to a book, “Zero: A New Approach to Non-Alcoholic Drinks,” from the Chicago bar Aviary, from which he took inspiration for the drink recipes. To get the flavors just right, Waldo’s makes its own versions of non-alcoholic gin and rum by cooking together blends of herbs and spices into syrups “to mimic the taste of the liquors” without producing any fermentation or alcohol.

Hartranft finds himself especially inspired to create versions of cocktail classics and experimenting with mixing methodologies.

“The party menu had what I think are some of the most important classics like the daiquiri and the gin and tonic,” he said. “The special was a pear punch, which came from a punch recipe I've used for years, and the mixology behind it dates back to the 1800s.”

As for a personal favorite, he can’t be pinned down just yet. “Whatever one I’m working on at the moment” is his answer.

If the mocktail debut party was any indication, the new menu is poised to be a popluar choice for those coming to downtown Gettysburg who don't want to visit the town's expansive bar scene, or those who want a relaxed atmosphere before hitting the bars, or who want to try something they've never experienced before. Whatever the reason, Waldo's is down for it.

Waldo's is located on the lower level at 17 Lincoln Square. Its hours are Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. - 10 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit its website.