Inside Look: The Copper Room, Yucca Valley - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

The recently opened Copper Room in the Yucca Valley Airport is technically an airport bar, but it’s unlike any other. Not only does it sport a relaxed vibe with nary a harried traveler to be found, but the food and drinks are worth writing home about. Plus, it’s one of the few airport bars that doesn’t require a boarding pass, and it will instantly transport visitors to another era.

“You have the sweeping views out to the airport runway and the mountains, and you have this low-slung 1950s architecture,” says The Copper Room’s lead designer Eric Cheong. “All that combined and you’re going to be transported somewhere else, either literally on an airplane or in your mind.”

More Than Just an Airport Bar

Even though the original Copper Room first opened in 1957, it went through many iterations—from The Red Baron Steakhouse in the ’70s to Wine & Roses in the late ’80s to the short-lived Touchdown Bar & Grill—before returning as a swinging destination spot today. Design and development company Life and Times (brothers Mike and Matt French and partner/lead designer Cheong) had just finished their Pioneertown projects, the Red Dog Saloon and the Pioneertown Motel, when they decided to resurrect the historic airport venue. “It was important because it’s one of the only hospitality food and beverage businesses here that had such an incredible history,” says Mike French.

Since the French brothers live in Pioneertown, they looked to create a respite for locals, away from tourist-overrun bars. “We always wanted to do something much more local for the community and that led us to look for places,” Cheong says.

However, up to that point, they had only known the bar as Wine & Roses and as the Red Baron, a favorite hangout of country rock singer Gram Parsons who liked to order pitchers of margaritas for himself. It wasn’t until they started digging through historical archives that they uncovered a story that stretched back to the original 1957 Copper Room. Here, Frank Sinatra celebrated the crowning of his pal, Academy Award-winning composer Jimmy Van Heusen, as the honorary mayor. And during this golden age of air travel, jet-setters would radio in their orders for martinis and steaks before they touched down.

Time Travel

To help return the Copper Room’s food and beverage program to its high-flying heyday, the team partnered with Last Word Hospitality (Found Oyster) and renowned barman Eric Alperin (The Varnish). Travelers can now enjoy grilled hanger steak, Louisiana Gulf shrimp, and burgers alongside a draft Negroni, bottled martini, and a Jet Pilot.

The impeccably restored bar, restaurant, and cocktail lounge complement the elevated menu’s nod to the past. But although the decor, furniture, and wallpaper evoke another time period, most are brand-new with only a few of the original finishes and furniture used. “The wallpaper is new, but it’s vintage wallpaper from the early ‘50s that we’ve found,” Cheong explains.

The goal for the team wasn’t to create a touristy theme bar but to celebrate the area’s history in a genuine way. “We didn’t want to do a super retro bar or a super hipster bar,” Cheong says. “We wanted somewhere people would walk in and wonder if this was actually original or not, which a lot of people have. And that’s the biggest compliment.”

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