Sly Augustin

19 Jun. 2017
From client to custodian: the owner of Trailer Happiness on his glorious mistakes and small triumphs

Bars are owned by hospitality professionals, ex or active bartenders, entrepreneurs… And, sometimes, they’re owned by ex clients who decided that, well, they’d been spending so much time at the bar, they might just take control of the place. Those cases don’t usually turn out too well – saving on your drink tab doesn’t mean you’ll be able to pay the bills. Trailer Happiness’ Sly Augustin proves this need not always be the case. Since 2012, he’s owned the trailblazing London tiki bar where he had spent many evenings. He told us his story.
 
From client…

“First and foremost, I consider myself a customer. Trailer Happiness was my go to bar. I first went in 2003, when it opened. The hospitality was on another level. At that time, I used to go to West End nightclubs but I was sick of having to deal with it. Bouncers, the shoes you wore or whether there were enough girls in your group… I’d take my friends to Trailer Happiness because I knew for a fact that we’d have no issues, we’d be treated well and my friends would love it. Back then, I had my own events company and after a while I started to use Trailer Happiness as a venue, because my relationship with them was that cool. I’d walk in and ask them ‘hey guys, how is Sunday looking? Can I do something here?’ They loved it because it would have been quiet otherwise. My friends called it ‘Sly’s bar’ even before I even thought of buying it. In 2012, I was just there having a drink and one of the bartenders, Alex Mouzouris, asked me if I knew someone who’d want to buy the bar. I didn’t get why it’d be for sale. I just could not imagine not having Trailer Happiness, because London can be quite miserable and pretentious and for me the bar was a oasis where you’d go to hang out and be cool.”
 
…to custodian
“The time was kind of right. I had the opportunity to go and work with some amazing people in fashion and music in New York but I had a conversation with friends of mine and they told me you should buy that bar, that’s so you. I talked with Paul McFayden and Richard Hunt and nine days later we teamed up and signed up the papers. It was a steep learning curve. What helped is that the industry is so supportive. I quickly found people willing to give me advice. Without them, it probably would have closed in four months to be fair. More than an owner, I see myself as a custodian. It’s important that Trailer Happiness exists. For me, its value is in the relationships I’ve managed to build since taking over. I get to meet and hang out with some of the world’s most eccentric people!”
 
Changes?
“I’ll probably never be happy with where we are, but the mechanics of the business are a lot more healthy and it’s still Trailer Happiness. Maybe not as loose: Bartenders pay for drinks, sometimes.”
 
No regrets
“It’s glorious mistakes and small triumphs. I’m very proud to have taken a lot of young barbacks and seen them evolved into exceptional bartenders, for example. Trailer Happiness is also all about our customers. There are bars in the industry that push and innovate. We are more customer focused and not the kind of bar that would woo bartenders, if that makes sense. Every time I see people having the time of their life at Trailer Happiness, I know I made the right choice”.
 

François Monti