Imagine boarding a plane at the height of luxury air travel — men in suits and ties socializing with women in skirts and pillbox hats, sipping cocktails and reading magazines while sitting in mid-century swivel chairs upholstered in loud patterns.
The glitz and glamour of the 1960s and early ‘70s marked the "golden age" of private air — a thing of the past that will soon be brought back to life in Phoenix’s upcoming cocktail experience, Carry On. Pushed back from a November opening and now set to take flight in early 2024, the retro-inspired airplane-themed bar is the newest project by Pretty Decent Concepts, the hospitality group behind Wren & Wolf, Trophy Room and Chico Malo.
“I’ve always been obsessed with old-school luxury travel, and I never got the opportunity to go on a 747 and go upstairs and get a drink at the bar and smoke a cigarette and read a newspaper,” says Teddy Myers, founder of Pretty Decent Concepts and owner of Carry On. “It’s just like this vibe of the ‘60s and ‘70s that happened and I’ve always been infatuated with it. So, I was like…what if we build a plane?”
With the number of airplane graveyards in and around Arizona, Myers originally wanted to scrap and repurpose an old plane but after exploring the idea, he soon realized it wouldn’t provide the necessary elegance and luxury that was the "golden age" of air travel. After brainstorming with his business partner Thor Nguyen, Myers and the team began off-site construction in April after acquiring the space adjacent to Trophy Room.
Air travel was considered a sophisticated event in the 1960s and ‘70s and Myers explains that “a big part of the journey was the flight or ‘how’ you were getting there.” In working closely with interior designer Peter Bowden and the custom fabricators at Spectacle, Carry On’s aircraft cabin has been meticulously constructed and designed to transport passengers back to a time when “vintage glamour” meant wood cladding, leather seats, chrome accents and ambient lighting.
While an aircraft cabin fit inside a building is impressive, Carry On will be much more than a downtown bar with unique decor. Instead, it is planned to provide a luxury “getaway” to some of the world’s top cocktail destinations.
After checking in at Wren & Wolf, all Carry On passengers will be escorted to the “plane” together where they will embark on a 90-minute immersive flight experience complete with a plane ticket, a walk across a jet bridge, a welcome cocktail and a pre-recorded safety brief led by the “pilot” — a mystery celebrity personality who is yet to be revealed.
Once seated, passengers will be able to look out the “windows” (14 monitors in total displaying the in-flight video feed) for the duration of the flight, including detailed take-off and landing footage showcasing the departure and arrival locations. Carry On’s initial “flight" will take all 30 passengers and a crew of two cocktail servers and one bartender from San Francisco to Mexico City, with changing flight patterns every 12 months.
Blending vintage air travel with mixology, the drink menu will feature staples inspired by the period as well as rotating specialty cocktails and mocktails derived from both the “point of departure” and “arrival destination.” It will be a 21-and-up experience and will not offer a full food menu. Instead, customers will be served complimentary, chef-driven airline-themed snacks for the duration of the flight.
“We started this to have an amazing cocktail program…we have a full beverage prep team doing all of our juicing and all of our infusions and cordials,” Myers says. “Throughout the year, we are going to do pop-ups with bars from the actual destinations…[that] will come in and do a takeover where we feature some of their cocktails. We are talking to a number of the top 50 bars around the world about being a pop-up guest for us once we get going.”
Myers alludes to other elements in the works such as an onboard bathroom and a phone in the middle of the cabin that will reveal a surprise when picked up — a detail inspired by Playboy founder Hugh Hefner who was often photographed with a phone in hand while onboard his private jet “Big Bunny.”
Tired of what he views as a somewhat rigid bar scene in the Valley, Myers was motivated to create an entirely new cocktail concept.
“The serious side of cocktail culture permeates throughout Phoenix and it’s a bit stuffy; and sometimes, it’s a bit pretentious and we didn’t want that. We wanted the opposite of that," he says. "We wanted something that’s fun, and there’s going to be some humor to it.”
In anticipation of Carry On’s opening early next year, Myers says he is most excited to see the look on people’s faces when they realize just how much thought and engineering went into creating this unique bar experience, something he says will be "unlike anything in downtown Phoenix."
Carry On2 N. Central Ave. #101