One of three concepts created by the immersive-cocktail-experience experts at Barter and Shake Hospitality, UnderTow has been at its current location (3620 East Indian School Road) since opening in 2016. The 19th-century trade ship-themed bar is easy to spot if you've ever been to Sip. The entrance — a set of descending stairs — stands alone in the middle of the coffee bar and is adorned with tropical foliage and shrunken heads.
According to Kailee Asher, director of marketing and public relations at Barter and Shake, there are several reasons behind the move. But the main one was the COVID-caused closing of the restaurant portion of Century Grand, which served dim sum-inspired plates. Consolidating the three remaining businesses — Platform 18, the Grey Hen, and UnderTow — in one place allows the firm to "make sure that all of our concepts stay alive," says Asher. Moving forward, Century Grand will be used as the umbrella name for the building itself that now houses all Barter and Shake concepts.
At the same time, the differing themes — Platform 18 is inspired by the creation of the transcontinental railroad; the Grey Hen is inspired by 19th century New Orleans apothecaries; and a clipper-ship spice trader inspired UnderTow — present something of a challenge. How to make it all make sense under one roof?
"Our concepts are rooted in history," says Asher. “With us bringing those faces into one building, we have to figure out how to align these two fictional narratives that are potentially at least 100 years apart."
Tiki Diablo is working on the project and will be handcrafting a new bar top. He'll also be adding other elements to make the new space more historically accurate. The patio on the south side of the building will not be built out initially, but Asher says that they are considering potentially using that area for private events.
UnderTow's current location does not allow for much elbow room, capping the maximum amount of guests at 18. The new space will provide about 20 percent more capacity, Asher says.
Barter and Shake hope construction will be completed by the end of 2020. Asher says if all goes well, they plan to close UnderTow around Christmas and reopen it in Century Grand come January.
As for what will happen to UnderTow's current space, Sip Coffee and Beer Garage may be opening its own cocktail bar in the basement. However, Asher says that the bar will have no connection to Barter and Shake Hospitality.