Pabst’s 1980s-themed motel is a throwback to way back

Photo: Grand Traverse Motel
Aug 19, 2022

Reviving the pre-pandemic pop-up hotel trend, Pabst has partnered with a motel in Traverse City, MI, to decorate and rent three Pabst Blue Ribbon-themed rooms tinged with 1980s nostalgia.

The rooms include:

  • The Arcade Room: Featuring working vintage games, along with a king-sized bed that doubles as a pop-a-shot machine.
  • The Dive Bar Room: Featuring a packed jukebox, three-seat bar, bathroom lined with classic record albums and kitschy furnishing. 
  • The Rec Room: Featuring a pull-out couch, foosball table and board games, wood paneling, shag carpet and blue ribbon trophy case that discreetly stores PBR cans.

The ’80s theme was inspired by the brand’s history and resurrects the classic tagline, “Pabst is the place.” The idea speaks to how drinking a PBR can transport an individual to simpler times.

Pabst Brewing Company VP of marketing Nick Riley told Ad Age the throwback concept comes as the pandemic experience had consumers seeking brands known for their character and old-school style. He said, “For Pabst, we had a really strong resurgence and resurgence through Covid because people were looking for brands that gave them a sense of security and they knew there was still good value, but perhaps at a lower cost.”

Fans can book a two-night stay in one of the three rooms at Grand Traverse Motel until Labor Day. The Dive Bar Room quickly sold out.

The motel activation is part of a larger campaign running across social media platforms, TV and outdoor advertising over the summer.

Others embracing the pop-up hotel concept include Taco Bell and Nutella, which both in 2019 briefly opened themed hotels in California. In August 2021, KFC opened a pop-up hotel in London with a “press for chicken” button in every room. H&M this past June opened Hotel Hennes NYC in Manhattan’s Lower East Side that enabled guests to check in for an hour to visit the café or rooftop bar with promised experiences including “portrait illustrator, drag bingo, a fortune teller, a mentalist, dance performances, DJ sets, photo ops, and more.”

The pop-up hotels arrive as research has shown younger generations prioritize experiences over products.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What’s driving the pop-up hotel trend? What do you think of Pabst’s ’80s-themed motel?

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"Any theme with some nostalgia or history involved can be brought back and will find interested parties."

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11 Comments on "Pabst’s 1980s-themed motel is a throwback to way back"

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Gary Sankary

Personally, I’d feel right at home in a PBR suite.

For some reason, this reminded me of a quote my late father used to say whenever we visited a sketchy establishment – “I’ve been kicked out of worse places.”

Neil Saunders

If Ronald Reagan is still President in this 1980s motel then reserve me a room!

Bob Amster

Any theme with some nostalgia or history involved can be brought back and will find interested parties. In 1973 we stopped at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, California and stayed in the Marie Antoinette room. She had been dead for 180 years.

Lisa Goller

The thrill of travel, unique experiences and affordability are driving the pop-up hotel trend. These pop-ups offer a fun, vibrant way to stand out and build social buzz.

Pabst’s ’80s-themed motel is glorious. All it needs is wood paneling and mullets. Stranger Things has made the ’80s cool again, helping Gen X parents bond with our Gen Z kids, sparking nostalgia, comfort and joy.

Georganne Bender

Hotel rooms have gotten so bland, this is an explosion of the senses. If you are into kitch, you’ll love this. The theme is supposed to be ’80s, but the room in the video definitely fell out of the ’70s. I lived through that era once and I don’t want to live it again, thank you. But I love the idea and I am sure many others will, too. PBR me!

Paula Rosenblum

I think they should also provide big hair wigs upon arrival! And I hope they have the 25 cent vibrating bed!

However this is not a young person’s hotel room. You have to have been there.

I love it.

Shep Hyken

This is fun. Themed rooms have been around for — decades. I love the idea of pop-culture themes for the decor of a room. Fun and memorable.

Paula Rosenblum

You just reminded me of the original presidential suite at the hotel attached to the Houston Astrodome. Each room was themed differently. Hilarious.

Al McClain

I hope I never stayed in a room like this (but I probably did). It’s fun, it’s retro, and it will generate social media buzz (pun intended). I think the social media end of it is what it’s all about. Fun idea.

Joan Treistman

I’m constantly amazed (shouldn’t be) that my daughters know so much of what was trending in the world before I was 21. Sit-coms, for example, old and new, bring that world into their lives. And of course, sci-fi that counts on the “olden days” for content fosters that as well. So, it’s not surprising that there are those who look at ‘80s or other themed motels, hotels, restaurants, etc. as nostalgia for times they never lived in. And then there are those like me for whom this is actually nostalgic and fun.

Craig Sundstrom

Desperation? Monkey-seeism? Some themed hotel ideas make more sense than others — though I wouldn’t really use that term for anything described here — but I don’t see it as having any long term viability (“fad” more than “trend”).

As for Pabst’s effort, it doesn’t make much sense to me (though it might have some resonance at the regional level). For most people, I believe, Pabst — to the extent that it was thought of at all — was regarded as a “cheap beer”; only recently has PBR gained a sort of cult following … ironically.

"Any theme with some nostalgia or history involved can be brought back and will find interested parties."

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