Thursday, April 18, 2024

Downtown tiki bar opens along the riverfront

Riverplace has a new hangout with Sip Tiki Bar. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

WILMINGTON — Around 100 people came through last weekend during the official opening of a new bar in downtown Wilmington, one of the only of its kind in a strip of ground-floor businesses at Riverplace.

READ MORE: Your Pie reopens under new ownership

Located at 214 N. Water St., Sip Tiki taps into the island vibe, serving specialized coladas, margaritas and daiquiris.

It’s not quite like well-known chains Fat Tuesday’s or Wet Willie’s, but more of a local’s watering hole, with brightly colored green palm wallpaper, straw hut façades and bamboo coverings on the bar and outdoor patio. 

Formerly The Nutrition Shop — a business focused on healthy meal replacement shakes — owner Nick Lacik quips he, his wife, Blair, and partners Sherri Howell and her partner, Mickey Fasano, went from daytime to nighttime bartenders.

“It was a little more of a morning-style business,” he said, adding the expected foot traffic wasn’t as strong as they hoped for the shake shop. “I don’t think what we were doing was right for that area.”

Last summer, Lacik and his wife were out for a drink and started talking about transforming the spot into a bar, seeing as there were no single-standing watering holes facing Water Street and the Cape Fear River in the immediate stretch of businesses. Surrounding the space are restaurants Mellow Mushroom and Ruth’s Chris Steak House.

“We were downtown with a cocktail one evening, seeing all these people walking from bar to bar and the places were booming,” Lacik said. 

What began as an innocent musing took shape once the two started discussing their love for frozen drinks. The tiki theme formulated from there.

“It’s more Bahama-style than ‘60s traditional tiki,” Lacik said. “We’re beach people and we like fruity frozen drinks — island cocktails. So we figured we should do something we enjoy.”

The Laciks met at Liberty College and upon graduation in 2016 moved to Wilmington. Blair worked for PPD and Nick was doing odd jobs, working for a moving company. But they had begun selling health products and saw how lucrative it was. 

That inspired them to start a shop in Ogden called Breakthrough Nutrition, a smoothie and juice bar operational for six years. In 2019 they took over the Water Street space for Blair’s mom, Howell, to run an additional shake shop.

“I think the timing was just bad,” Lacik said, noting they opened in September. “And the shake business is often more popular in spring and summer.”

The Covid-19 pandemic stalled their plans. The Laciks and Howell finally opened in 2021, but the aftereffects the pandemic had on businesses were not resolved. 

Enter Sip Tiki.

To transform the space required little upfit, as the bar was already installed. Lacik said it was mostly cosmetic — lighting and decor, for example. The 600 square-feet space holds roughly 24 people, with 14 seats indoors and eight seats outdoors; however, there is standing room for more patrons. 

“We hope our outdoor patio attracts people — it’s more open-air,” he said. 

Open for less than a week so far the Key Lime margarita and the banana daiquiri have been favorites, Lacik said. 

There are nine drinks offered frozen or on the rocks: three ‘ritas (Key Lime, strawberry and sweet heat), three coladas (pina, strawberry, banana) and three daiquiris (banana, strawberry, pineapple). Frozen virgin drinks are also served.

A full menu of well-known beach-themed sippers — Mai Tai, Hurricane, mojito and Rum Runner — are listed on the palm-tree-decorated chalkboard beside one-of-a-kind drinks the bar owners created. Mermaid Water, for instance, is citrus rum, lime and strawberry, while Beach Blast consists of blue raspberry, orange and tequila. Plus they offer shooters in various flavors; again the Key lime, with rum and vodka and topped with whipped cream, has been a favorite, according to Lacik. 

The menu also includes local drafts, such as Salty Turtle, Waterline, Broomtail and Bills Brewing; the goal is to switch out the offerings.

“We had great feedback from the weekend, with people from the restaurants and bars showing support,” Lacik said.

Sip Tiki is open Tuesday through Thursday, 2 p.m. to 10 p.m and noon to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; Sunday operations are noon to 9 p.m. The Laciks and Howell, as well as Fasano, are manning the operation.

“We are very hands-on and like being our bosses and decision-makers,” Lacik said.

The hours of Sip Tiki could change as the weather warms and depending on demand from clientele, but it was intentional to be an “early bar.”

“We just felt it fits our theme — especially with like a frozen pina colada. That’s a little bit more something you’re going to want to enjoy sitting outside on the Riverwalk at 2 p.m. versus 11 p.m.,” he said.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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