PHOENIX — Even in a pandemic and the uncertainty that comes with it, Barter & Shake Creative Hospitality -- the team behind UnderTow, Platform 18, and Grey Hen -- have a trio of projects in the works.
They are currently rebuilding UnderTow, which is being relocated from Sip Coffee & Beer to the Century Grand next door; will open a pop-up version of UnderTow at the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale on Thursday to bridge the gap between construction and the opening; and have confirmed plans to open a second location of their immersive, nautical cocktail bar at the Epicenter at Agritopia in Gilbert in 2022.
"We are ready," said Jason Asher in an interview with ABC15 on Thursday. Asher co-founded and co-owns UnderTow, Platform 18, and Grey Hen with his business partner, Rich Furnari.
"Our plan has always been to grow the UnderTow brand," he said. "Our plan has always been to grow the brand and, hopefully, sell it." Or, he later added, develop another long-term growth plan and continue to expand.
There have been discussions to eventually open up to three more locations of UnderTow, he said, though only the Arcadia and Gilbert locations have been confirmed so far.
"Our plan is not to open exactly the same UnderTow from location to location," he said of the upcoming one in Gilbert. "I think that you'll see maybe different parts of the boat.”
The special effects that UnderTow is known for -- the decorations, the storytelling, the portholes, and interactive thunderstorms and battles -- would still be part of the experience, Furnari, co-founder of UnderTow, said in a recent email.
For those who haven't been before, the cocktail bar was designed to look like the hull of a 19th Century Clipper Ship as it sails across the world.
Epicenter at Agritopia, where the second location of UnderTow will be, is a multi-use development currently under construction in Gilbert. It is the brainchild of Joe Johnson, who has developed and owns a multitude of restaurants and businesses in the area, including Joe's Farm Grill, Joe's Real BBQ, Topo, and Barnone.
The development will have apartments, as well as shopping, and restaurants. Some of the tenants that have already signed on to the project include Matt’s Big Breakfast, Gadzooks, Bunky Boutique, and Wylde Salon and the Hooligans Barbershop.
Phase one of Epicenter is expected to open in fall 2021.
For Asher and Furnari, the priority right now is on opening UnderTow within the Century Grand building near 36th Street and Indian School Road — right now, the expectation is to open in March, but could be delayed — and on opening the pop-up version in the Sands building at the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, which opens Thursday night, Jan. 14.
The team has worked to make the pop-up experience similar to the one people are accustomed to, but it understandably will not be the same.
They’ve brought in tropical plants, tiki decorations and artwork, the tropical birds, and added in some of the lightning and thunderstorm effects that help bring the experience to life, Asher said.
The goal of the pop-up is to help keep their employees and bartenders working and paid, while construction continues in Arcadia. Reservations are required and can be booked, here.
For UnderTow fans, the team is featuring current and past drinks from their menu iterations.
But, eyes remain on the future.
“We’re looking for some growth,” said Asher. “Our plan is to get Gilbert off the ground and then begin [locations] three, four, and five, and then we look at either a sale or another long-term growth plan for the brand.”