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McMenamins to open brewpub, hotel, restaurant, music venue in Tacoma in 2017

The McMenamin brothers, Mike and Brian, inside the Tacoma Elks Lodge as it looks now. They hope to open a hotel, pub, and music venue there by 2017. (Rachel Belle, KIRO Radio)

Brothers Mike and Brian McMenamin have set their sights on Tacoma’s old, vacant Elk’s Lodge for their latest project. They aim to convert the site into one of their hybrid hotel, restaurant, music venue and brewpubs by 2017.

“This is where the old pool was, and we’re going to be filling it in,” says Brian McMenamin touring through the site. “We have a bar going in the middle here and it’s going to have a tiki kind of slant on it.”

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The 45,000 square foot Elks Lodge was built in 1915 but has sat vacant since 1967. The space looks and smells like a musty, ancient ruin, with huge, ornate columns, beautifully detailed moldings, peeling paint, water damaged walls, unfinished floors, grand arches and plenty of colorful graffiti.

“There’s some great graffiti in this building,” Mike McMenamin says. “We’ll at least save a lot of it. It has to be remembered, at least in photos. We have to have it up because it’s part of the history of the place!”

That’s a unique approach that the McMenamins have used throughout the Northwest to convert old buildings into hip, modern attractions. The brothers have become experts at revitalizing beloved, historical buildings, preserving their best parts, and bringing in local artists to give them new flair. And they’ve had their eye on this property, on Broadway in Tacoma’s Old City Hall Historic District, for a long time.

Mike explains how they choose their venues.

“If it’s relevant; if there’s a need in the community for it. I think that’s almost first and foremost now,” he said. “We’ve kind of evolved from just opening a food and beverage place to opening one that can be involved in restoration. The history has to be a big part of it. There’s always something that hooks you. It’s like, oh my god, it’s all I can think about.”

The brothers are modest, so they won’t come out and say that opening a McMenamins hotel, restaurant and brewpub changes a community for the better. But it’s easy to see the effects in small towns and quiet neighborhoods.

City of Bothell’s acting city manager Peter Troedsson says Bothell’s sleepy downtown awakened after McMenamins Anderson School opened last October, with it’s restaurants, hotel, movie theater, swimming pool and bars.

“The Main Street merchants will tell you they feel that effect,” Troedsson said. “People that come into town oftentimes will visit McMenamins and then they’ll come over to Main Street and spend some time shopping there. Or, if the wait is too long at one of the McMenamins restaurants, they’ll come to one of the downtown restaurants. There certainly has been a beneficial effect for the rest of the downtown businesses.”

McMenamins official historian, Tim Hills, says the first big impact they made was with their Edgefield property in rural Oregon.

“That is at the very mouth of the Columbia River Gorge in Troutdale,” Hills said. “The local historian likes to say they didn’t even realize they had a tourist trade until Edgefield opened and all these people from Portland started coming out. Now they’re known as the gateway to the Columbia River Gorge. They’ve really kind of branded themselves.”

The McMenamin brothers opened their first pub in Portland in 1983, inspired by a trip to Europe where they saw families hanging out in pubs with good beer, food and music. They felt Portland didn’t have anything like that at the time. They now have 54 venues across Washington and Oregon — soon to be 55.

The McMenamins Elk’s Lodge or Elk’s Temple (name yet to be determined) is set to open in late 2017. It will be six floors, 46 guest rooms, a brewery, restaurants, six bars and a 700-person music venue already inspiring big acts to make Tacoma a stop on their tour.

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