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What does reopening look like for Tacoma restaurants? Frozen cocktails and plastic domes, for starters

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Camp dome

Who would have thought six months ago that frozen takeout cocktails and giant see-through vinyl domes would be the key to successfully operating a bar? 

And yet here we are. 

Tacoma bar owner Patrick Haight will give a preview taste of what’s to come when he launches a take-out menu and cocktails-to-go at 4 p.m. this Friday (June 5) and Saturday (June 6) at his restaurant and bar, The Camp Bar on Tacoma Avenue South

Once Phase 2 starts (soon, we all hope) and diners can dine inside restaurants again, his giant, see-through orbs enter the picture. Those two orbs seat four each and can be safely wiped down and sanitized.

Nothing has stretched the scrappy resilience of restaurant and bar owners like this pandemic. 

Haight closed The Camp Bar in March when COVID-19 restrictions limited the kind of service he could offer. “The numbers didn’t make sense. I’m glad we didn’t reopen,” he said. 

Scoot back to 2018 for the history of the bar known for excellent service and ridiculously fun karaoke. He opened Camp Bar in the former home of the Acme Tavern. While Acme Tavern was gritty around the edges in an unintentional way, Haight designed Camp Bar as a sense-of-place dive bar with an over-the-top camp theme. 

Barkeeps are called “Camp Counselors” and every corner is crammed with some kind of nod to summer camp or hanging out around a campfire. Did I mention the dining room s’mores you can cook to order at your table? I can’t wait for the return of those when Phase 2 lands. 

Camp dome
Patrick Haight has two plastic domes set up in his dining room at The Camp Bar. Photo courtesy of The Camp Bar.

His “gonna get through this” attitude prompted different approaches to keeping his staff and customers safe and his bottom line boosted. 

He’s planning on making to-go cocktails a longer term part of his business so long as the Washington State Liquor Cannabis Board allows (right now, that’s within 30 days of Pierce County entering Phase 4).

He’s created a frozen version of his One Eyed Squirrel cocktail. “It’s made with aloe vera juice, fresh lime and Tito’s vodka. It’s so summery. It’s a light, melon-y flavored cocktail. It’s not overly sweet or heavy and served as a frozen drink.” It’s available to-go in a pouch. 

When in-person dining is allowed in Phase 2, “We’re going to encourage people that if they don’t want to drink while they’re here and they want to get home safety, they can take one to go,” said Haight. 

As for those plastic domes. Well, those are a funny story. “You know I never take myself seriously,” said Haight. He got the idea from a widely circulated photo. “I think I saw it on Facebook. It was in the Netherlands. They had these triangular green houses and couples were sitting in them and the waiter was coming up to serve them inside these clear houses.” 

“I thought, as a novelty, why not put those inside The Camp Bar?”

So he did what we all did during quarantine: He Internet shopped. “They had to be the right ones,” he said. “I stumbled on the ones I got. The website showed pictures of plants in it and then the next picture was of a little family having a picnic in it and I thought it was perfect.”

“It’s just bizarre and weird enough to be funny. It sticks with our theme,” said Haight. He enjoyed the experience of sitting inside the domes when he tested the seating in his dining room. “When I set them up, I walked in here by myself. It was a little echo-y. I thought, ‘This is wild.’ It was like the cone of silence.” 

“I think it’ll be kind of fun. Some people are going to want that area to sit in because it‘s new and different and it made me able to put the tables closer together because of the barrier.” 

The two domes seat four diners each. “We’re going to spray with disinfectant and wipe it down” between diners, he said.

He plans to only use them short term. He’ll probably auction off the domes at some point once Pierce County reaches the phase where he can have 75 percent occupancy.

Looking ahead, he’s got plans to keep his employees and patrons safe and healthy. He already has purchased 400 disposable karaoke microphone covers that will reduce cross contamination when the microphone is handed between diners. Karaoke will return, Haight said, much later on after occupancy increases and restrictions loosen. 

He also plans to have disposable menus, QR codes and methods of ordering to reduce contact between staffers and patrons. 

And like most other local restaurant owners, he’s ready to get the doors open and invite his regulars back in. 

KNOW OF ANY BARS OR RESTAURANTS that are doing something unusual as they open for Phase 2? Reach out and let me know!

THE CAMP BAR

Where: 1310 Tacoma Ave. S., Tacoma; 253-503-6712

Web: http://www.thecampbar.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CampBarTacomaWA/

Insta: https://instagram.com/thecampbar

Takeout preview: Check out The Camp Bar on Friday (June 5)  and Saturday (June 6) for the launch of a take-out menu and cocktails. They plan to open at 4 p.m. and will operate until 9 p.m.

Opening for Phase 2: As soon as the rules allow

Mogoso
Photos courtesy of Mogoso.

MOGOSO NOODLE AND DUMPLING RESTAURANT IS DEBUTING

Did you catch my story about Mogoso Noodle and Dumpling Restaurant debuting in Tacoma this week? Read all about it here.

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