Can World Famous Bob's Java Jive be saved?

Financial problems may force the closure of a Tacoma landmark – World Famous Bob’s Java Jive, a bar in a building shaped like a coffee pot.

“I don’t know how we’re going to make it,” said owner Danette Staatz – better known to friends and customers as Danny.

Between the end of October and Jan. 31 of next year, she said she will have to pay about $10,000 in quarterly taxes, insurance, licenses and property taxes.

“If something great doesn’t happen, it’s going to be the end of this place,” she said. “It’s never been so bad.”

In an attempt to prevent the bar from closing, a Bob’s Java Jive customer and friend, Adria Long, has helped organize “The Big Hoopla” for this Friday in order to raise money to keep the Java Jive in business.

The evening’s festivities will include dancers, live music, a juke box, pool, pinball and darts, as well as hot dogs and pop.

Beer and wine will be for sale inside the bar.

“Any drinking will have to be done inside,” Staatz noted.

The bar lost about $5,500 last year, she said, displaying financial records from 2001.

In addition to the high cost of various taxes, insurance and licensing, other costs of running a business, like inventory and necessary repairs, have eaten into funds.

“You just can’t keep going like that,” she said. “What we need is business. We need people.”

Businesses should be taxed on their net profits, not their gross profits, Staatz complained.

“If you’re not making a profit, how can you pay taxes and employee people?” she asked.

Besides Staatz and her husband, J.R. McPherson, who has worked at Bob’s Java Jive off and on for 15 years, the bar employees three other people.

The prospect of the Java Jive closing weighs heavily on Staatz.

“It’s upsetting,” she said. “I grew up here. This is my home.”

With little to no experience in running a business, she took over Bob’s Java Jive from her ailing father, Bob Radonich (the Bob in Bob’s Java Jive) in 1995, and quickly discovered he wasn’t the most organized business person, describing his keeping receipts on small handwritten scraps of paper in grocery bags marked with dates.

Nevertheless, she has managed to keep the business in the historic building running until the present.

Not surprising for a building shaped like a giant coffee pot, Bob’s Java Jive has a long and colorful history.

Built in 1927, the hard to miss Bob’s Java Jive is 25 feet high and 30 feet in diameter.

Bob’s Java Jive used to be a speakeasy and had some “working girls” in the back, Staatz said.

The building has gone through a number of interior makeovers, and when owned by Bob and Lylabell Radonich, it was a Polynesian themed location, complete with a Jungle Room and two monkeys living there.

Although no longer a Polynesian themed bar, Bob’s Java Jive continues the trashy decor tradition of a bar with real atmosphere.

In 1998, the building barely averted damage in a fire that gutted apartments behind it.

Bob’s Java Jive is famous beyond the region, having been featured in such motion pictures as “Say Anything,” “Three Fugitives,” “I Love You to Death,” and “Ten Things I Hate About You.”

McPherson provided a picture of the late actor River Phoenix, who starred in “I Love You To Death,” saying that he came into the bar during filming.

Bob’s Java Jive was the site of a recently taped segment for “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” featuring director and actor Kevin Smith, but it hasn’t aired yet, Staatz said.

She indicated she didn’t know if would air in the future or not.

Today, the bar attracts an eclectic customer base.

“All kinds come in here. Everybody gets along,” Staatz said. “There’s something about the place.”

Staatz said she’s in the process of getting the building on the state’s Register of Historical Places.

“If I can’t keep it, at least it won’t be torn down,” she explained.

“It should be in the Guiness Book of World Records,” she said, believing Bob’s Java Jive to be the largest coffee pot in the world.

Still, her main priority is keeping Bob’s Java Jive open for business.

This Friday’s “The Big Hoopla” is set to begin at approximately 6 p.m.

World Famous Bob’s Java Jive is located at 2102 South Tacoma Way.

Call 23/475-9843 for more information.

“Come out and support your local landmark, or it’s not going to be here,” Staatz said.