Drink in a Little Americana

Sip, our new outdoor bar made from a 1966 Airstream Safari, mixes retro with metro.

3_PRESS RES SIP by Rob-Harris-8245

Photo: Rob/Harris Productions, Inc.

Wally Byam did not mean to start Airstream.

What he meant to do was devise a way to go camping with his wife so she wouldn’t have to sleep on the ground in a tent. She also suggested it would be more fun if she had a kitchen.

So there’s Wally, who grew up in a wooden wagon on the Oregon Trail that had a stove inside it, rigging up a Model T chassis with a tent. The mobile tent didn’t hold up in the rain, and it was super un-fun to assemble; so, Wally went back to square one, invented a teardrop-shaped permanent shelter over the chassis and outfitted it with a stove and ice chest, same as his wooden-wagon days. This Airstream prototype drew so much attention from fellow travelers, Wally decided it might make a decent business.

First, he published a DIY traveling trailer guide in Popular Mechanics, then opened a little factory called Airstream in Culver City, Calif., in 1931. The round design mitigates wind resistance. It also looks really cool, so the Airstream grew popular quickly. Other travel trailer manufacturers popped up everywhere, but when the Great Depression hit and WWII followed with a demand for aluminum for planes, every single pre-Depression trailer shop folded except Airstream. Wally contributed to the war effort by building planes. In a sense, those years provided him with an apprenticeship; when the war ended and he returned to Airstream, he applied his airplane know-how to building the best, most well-designed and longest lasting travel trailers in the country. And get this: in 2006, 70% of all Airstreams were still on the road.

Just one glance at an Airstream conjures the romance of the American Dream – it’s shiny; it’s Space-Agey; it can take you anywhere you want to go and keep you comfortable. You can be free and hip at the same time. The Airstream is like Andy Warhol meets apple pie; it’s space travel without the claustrophobic suits, an easy-access bathroom and the ability to breathe the air. Airstream means happy family vacations and the daring-to-explore courage of the Great American Road Trip. And, it just looks really cool. Did we mention that?

When the time came for The Straz to decide on opening a new outdoor bar that would both engage guests and lure in folks on the Riverwalk, a converted Airstream that sold alcohol was a no-brainer. “We had a brainstorming session regarding plans about the outdoor bar,” says Chief Operating Officer Lorrin Shepard. “And someone brought up the idea of a converted Airstream with a few drawings of what it would look like. It was a unanimous favorite.”

The committee found an original 1966 Airstream Safari, a classic “silver bullet land yacht” at 22 feet equipped with a linen closet, credenza, two twin beds, a full bed, a tub and refrigerator in addition to the full kitchen and bathroom. “It was fun going through the conversion process – what do you keep, what do you clear out so it can be a working bar. We ended up with the inside completely converted and the outside preserved. You can see the dings and small travel-wear on it,” says Shepard.

1_PRESS RES SIP by Rob-Harris-8198

Photo: Rob/Harris Productions, Inc.

Sip opened in January in time for the curtain to rise on Les Miz. However, the idea behind Sip is much more than offering a new, hip bar for Straz guests. Sip, parked on the Straz’s southern end of the Riverwalk, opens The Straz to anyone who happens to be on the Riverwalk or enjoying downtown. It’s our way of saying, “hey, stop here, have a drink, enjoy yourself, be a part of our amazing campus and maybe there’s even some free entertainment happening.” Sip is open to all with a full liquor bar, craft beers, frozen drinks, coffee drinks and water. Plus, you can get an official Riverwalk to-go cup at Sip to take your booze as you cruise. It’s as if the Airstream is begging you to keep traveling. Or stay and get comfortable. You can have it all at an Airstream bar.

“Whether folks are here for a Broadway show, one of our free outdoor community events or just strolling along the Riverwalk, Sip is a casual urban oasis with a stunning view and good vibes,” says Javier Rasmussen, the general manager of food and beverage for The Straz.

“The Airstream is a cherished American icon,” Shepard says. “Wanderlust, abode, comfort – all packaged in this cool, shining jewel of a display. That makes me happy, knowing we’re able to bring that alive for the city.”

Sip hours (weather permitting):
TUE – THU      4PM-10PM
FRI                  4PM – 12AM
SAT                 11AM – 12AM
SUN                11AM – 10PM

2_PRESS RES SIP by Rob-Harris-8182

Photo: Rob/Harris Productions, Inc.