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Beervana: Many have met at The Spar

The spar celebrates 20 years under the same ownership

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Beer joints aren’t like regular businesses. People don’t laugh and share good times in hardware stores. But they do in beer joints. People don’t meet new friends or lovers among the racks of sweaters at the Gap. But they do at beer joints. People don’t feel at home in a cell phone store. But they do at beer joints.

People flock to taverns when they are sad and want to focus their minds on more happy times.
They go to taverns to celebrate graduations, birthdays, wakes and friendships as well as promotions and new careers. People go to taverns to gather with old friends or make new ones over pints and peanuts. Taverns are living rooms for America.

So it is a special time when a tavern has a birthday. A notable beer joint is marking a significant birthday this week.

The Spar, a neighborhood landmark in Old Town Tacoma that overlooks the waters of Commencement Bay, is now 90 years old and marking its 20th year under the same ownership.

The beer-selling pool hall will be marking the occasion by flashing back to when it all began by selling Anchor Steam and Alaska Amber at 1980’s prices, since those were among the first beers that poured through their taps those many years ago. There will be daily food specials and drawings throughout the week of Oct. 20 to 27 and end with two drawings for weekend vacation packages. The kickoff party will be headlined by the Galaxies, a ’60s rock and roll group. The last day of the birthday celebration will include a family reunion of sorts when Spar employees past and present day will mix and mingle with the many couples who met at The Spar.

“There have been a lot of them,” says Spar owner Kathy Manke.

Those early days of running the Spar were hectic, since there really weren’t as many beer joints then as there are now, so bar hoppers all flocked to the waterfront, mixing with all sorts of folks.

“When we started, there really was no place for people to go and hang out. There were lines out the door in those early years,” she said, noting that she never played favorites. “Norm Dicks even had to wait in line once.”

And if a highly ranked federal Legislator couldn’t get a table by pulling a few strings, no one could. The place slowly settled down into its calmer neighborhood bar vibe, although even that gathering of people can fill the place.

“It was fun then, but it is also fun now,” Manke says. “I’m 20 years older now.”

The “regulars” start filing in shortly after five and by 6:30 or so, the place has the constant din of dozens of conversations merging in the air. Most beer drinkers know each other. It’s just that family sort of place.

For Matt Huffman, that is literally true.

He worked at the bar from 1999 to 2003 and drives from Seattle to stop by a few times a month. His brother Mike was a server at the bar in 1988, making him one of the first employees under the Manke era. He is now a professor at Tacoma Community College and works as a cook once a week just because he likes the crowd. His brother Pete then did a stint as a bartender for few years before Matt did his bar duty. Following that was their little sister Annie, who worked at the bar for a few years until about a year ago. They all still meet there for beers when they find the time.

[The Spar, 2123 N. 30th St., Tacoma, 253.272.2122]

Other beer news

When it comes right down to it, few things in this world can top a freshly poured, frosty barley pop. We’re referring to beer, of course, and it’s way more than a delicious sexual stimulant/memory eraser . . . beautiful beer is an art form unto itself. In keeping with its tradition of promoting awareness and appreciation of this heavenly beverage, the Weekly Volcano reminds you of two precious events:

Tacoma Beer Society gathers for bagpipes, beer and debauchery Saturday, Oct. 20, at Paddy Coyne’s, 815 Pacific Ave. in downtown Tacoma.  The craziness starts at 8 p.m. 

The Parkway Tavern celebrates Jubelpalooza Wednesday, Oct. 24, 6-9 p.m.  Deschutes Brewery’s Jubelale 2006 and 2007, Nitro 2006 and Cask 2006 in the house. The Parkway is at 313 N. I St. by Wright Park in_Tacoma.

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