McMenamins Elks Temple is coming!

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

Empty and abandoned for over twenty years, home to squatters and pigeons, the old Elks building on Broadway is finally beginning to shine.

And will it ever.

With its mix of Steampunk, Tiki and a dash of 1930′s Shanghai, the McMenamins restoration and rehabilitation of one of Tacoma’s architectural and historic landmarks will anchor the building even more in the psyche of locals and visitors alike.

Plus it will be a working music venue, brewery, ballroom and a place to stay like no other.

And a memorable place to hang out.

If you know much about McMenamins, you know that they go to great pains – and great expense (over $35 million for the Tacoma Elks Club project) to insure that each of their projects is not only a comfortable and enjoyable place to socialize and enjoy music and unique, and usually locally resourced food and drink, but is a reflection and manifestation of both the community and the building itself.

Tacoma, with its tangled history of immigration (1*), prohibition, railroad and timber magnates, political and police corruption and a history of flirting with greatness as much as with catastrophe is the perfect forum for the eclectic expression that is McMenamins.

As to some of the details; the Tacoma McMenamins will feature 45 guest rooms – each with a king bed and private bathroom and most will feature a view – it could be a bird’s eye view of a corner of Tacoma’s historic neighborhood, Commencement Bay, the Port of Tacoma or, on the 6th floor, an internal view of hanging chandeliers and world class light fixtures. (2*)

As Tacoma old-timers would know, this is a massive building, large enough for three bars; first, the McMenamins Pub which seats 250 and offers a full menu from brunch to dinner – including handcrafted spirits and ales; second, The Old Hangout Bar on the first floor (formerly the site of the Elks Lodge locker room and swimming pool) with a mix of repurposed art, vintage bamboo (and other) objects from Singapore, Polynesia, India and Kentucky, just to name a few.

In this room, don’t be shy about poking around corners and checking out the art and decor. You just might get the feeling that some of it is looking back at you.

Just a typical dining booth at the Tacoma McMenamins. Photo: Morf Morford

Just a typical dining booth at the Tacoma McMenamins. Photo: Morf Morford

Third, The Spanish Bar is just off the Ballroom. You can try out the vegetarian menu as you catch the show in the adjacent Spanish Ballroom – the central feature of this room is a century old bar (reclaimed from Long Beach, Washington) – originally made in Tacoma.

Detail from the century old Spanish Bar. If only a bar could tell its stories....    Photo: Morf Morford

Detail from the century old Spanish Bar. If only a bar could tell its stories…. Photo: Morf Morford

And, if you can find it, be sure to check out The Vault,  a tiny, almost secret bar tucked away and (literally) under the street.

If you find this room, look up to the ceiling – you can see the small glass inserts in the sidewalk from well over a hundred years ago.

The Spanish Ballroom, with room for 700 fans, features a fully restored original stage, a Bose Professional sound system (customized for this venue) stunning, intricate and historically referenced floor to ceiling murals and will host national, regional and local artists.

Once home to cotillions and raucous New Year's Eve parties from a bygone era, the Spanish Ballroom will fill again with music and celebration.  Photo: Morf Morford

Once home to cotillions and raucous New Year’s Eve parties from a bygone era, the Spanish Ballroom will fill again with music and celebration. Photo: Morf Morford

McMenamins’ 45 guest rooms are named after local events or characters from Red Kelly, the Eisenhower brothers (yes, “Ike” had a local connection) Krist Novoselic, Robert Cray, Thea Foss and Bill Baarsma.

And do not miss the appropriately named Graffiti Room.

You might not be able to sleep there, but at least take a look.

The opening of the Tacoma Elks McMenamins is scheduled for April 24, 2019.

As with everything else, the greeters at McMenamins are not what you might expect. Photo: Morf Morford

As with everything else, the greeters at McMenamins are not what you might expect. Photo: Morf Morford

McMenamins was founded by the two Portland based McMenamin brothers in 1974 and as of April, 2018, has 55 locations in Washington and Oregon. (3*)

McMenamins has four full time historians doing research on the buildings, communities and eras represented by each of their buildings, You can get a sense of the culture of the Tacoma Elks Lodge (and their antics) here -  https://blog.mcmenamins.com/the-party-planners and here are some upcoming events (you’ll need to filter for location for the Elks Temple) - https://www.mcmenamins.com/to-do/live-music-events/music-event-calendar.

 

(1*)    Virtually every character of note in young Tacoma was an immigrant. Most immigrants were welcome. Some were welcomed one year and hounded out of town the next.

(2*)    I cannot describe it adequately – but prepare to be amazed.

(3*)    You can see a map of all their locations here – https://www.mcmenamins.com/find