New retro-glam lounge with political intrigue opens downtown

A new downtown bar with political intrigue will soft-open tonight, foretelling a future in which Capitol denizens might make cocktail-napkin deals over a round of gin martinis. 

“I wanted to create a place where you can be seen, but maybe not heard,” says owner Paula Thompson of SMIC’s Sip & Quip, which is replacing Downtown & Vine near 12th and K. “Bars are extensions of the office—people are clustered in cozy nooks having conversations that are probably important.”

A custom, equestrian-themed toile wallpaper lends a noble touch to the retro-glam vibe. (Photo by Anna Wick)

Per Gov. Gavin Newsom’s current order permitting only outdoor dining and takeout for restaurants and bars, those cozy nooks in the lush throwback lounge—think gold velvet captain’s chairs arranged around marble tables, neon-like rope lighting and modern toile wallpaper printed with horses in mid-gallop, sharp birds’ talons and regal crowns—will have to wait to host such happy hour hobnobbing. In the meantime, Thompson will soft-open SMIC’s patio on July 23 and 24, from 4-9 p.m. and plans to announce additional days of operation in the coming weeks (check its Instagram for updates) before a grand opening in the fall. 

The patio will carry a tropical vibe with large umbrellas and lush palms provided by new East Sacramento foliage emporium Plant Daddy Co. Physically distanced patrons will order from a limited menu of shareable bar bites like crispy flatbread topped with burrata cheese, arugula, prosciutto and fresh peaches, or brioche sliders with bacon, heirloom tomato and arugula pesto. (Once indoor dining returns, the lineup will expand to include high-low plates like tater tots topped with crème fraîche and caviar.) 

Velvet lounge chairs pair with black booths and a nylon rope light by Luke Lamp Co. (Photo by Anna Wick)

The titular “sip” will eventually be facilitated by a wine list of more than 50 vintages, with the initial by-the-glass menu focusing on California wines from local labels like Clarksburg’s Elevation Ten and Woodland's Matchbook, as well as Snowden in St. Helena and Chateau St. Jean in Sonoma. Four beer taps will pour rotating selections from area breweries—Urban Roots, Big Stump, Bike Dog and Crooked Lane—and, thanks to a newly acquired liquor license, a lineup of Mad Men-era cocktails like Manhattans and martinis will soon be offered.

The shareable bar bites at SMIC's will include cheese and charcuterie plates, cast-iron mac and cheese and flat bread topped with burrata and fresh peaches. (Photo by Katy Karns)

With this venture, Thompson—who most recently co-owned Hogwash, an industrial beer hall in San Francisco—chose to honor her late father-in-law, health care lobbyist Steven M. Thompson, dubbed by his peers as the "smartest man in California,” aka SMIC. (Fittingly, the bar is located along the Steven M. Thompson Memorial Walkway.) The political influencer “loved riveting conversation that wasn’t all about the pleasantries," says Paula.

“He would have a glass of wine or a martini with you, and he had no problem telling you that you were an idiot, but then buying the next round,” she adds. That's precisely the type of clientele that Thompson hopes to see passionately arguing legislation at SMIC’s—with an acronym like that, modern-day politicos have a lot to live up to.

1200 K St. 916-228-4518. Current soft-opening hours are Thursdays and Fridays 4-9 p.m. Follow SMIC’s on Instagram and check for updates. 

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