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Kelly’s Olympian coming to downtown Tacoma with restaurant, music venue

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One of Portland’s oldest bars, Kelly’s Olympian, is expanding to Tacoma. The restaurant and bar, known for its motorcycle theme, burger menu and live music venue, plans to open another Kelly’s Olympian in Tacoma at 950 Broadway.

It’s the project of Jeff Mincheff, who co-owns Kelly’s Olympian in Portland, along with wife Jacqulyn Mincheff and business partner Benjamin Stutz. The trio purchased Kelly’s Olympian in Portland nearly 20 years ago. 

“I’ve been in commercial real estate for 30 years, primarily in the Portland area, and have recently purchased several historic buildings in downtown Tacoma that my team and I also manage,” said Jeff Mincheff.

During the pandemic, Mincheff’s company bought the Rhodes Center Complex, which amounts to 170,000 square feet across three buildings with a 560-car parking garage in downtown Tacoma. They purchased the complex from the State of Washington, which sunk a considerable amount of money in rehabbing the buildings when it purchased them about 20 years ago, Mincheff said. 

The building that formerly housed Rhodes Bros. Department Store is where Kelly’s Olympian Tacoma will be located – at 950 Broadway.  

Passers-by already are being greeted with a visual treat and a calling card for what will be inside. Mincheff, a motorcycle enthusiast, already has motorcycles on display.  

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Photo courtesy Kelly’s Olympian Tacoma.

DESIGN PROCESS UNDERWAY AT KELLY’S OLYMPIAN TACOMA

The first steps of the design process started this week, said Mincheff. He met with the company managing the design to configure the footprint and devise a construction plan to create a restaurant, bar and a 250-person entertainment venue. 

An opening is anticipated sometime during the first quarter of 2022, but that timeline is reliant on permitting and construction, of course.

The music venue will be sandwiched into a section of the space that had little utility. 

“The back of the building doesn’t really have any daylight windows. It’s a big vault of space without natural light. There’s nothing to do with that space except it’s the perfect place for an entertainment venue. It adjoins the restaurant bar area,” said Mincheff.

He added, “It’s perfect for all kinds of shows. Not only do we want to do music from rock and roll to hip hop, country, blues, we want to have drag shows there. We want to have a community factor where non-profits or community organizations can use that space for free. We want to weave it into the diverse fabric here and be inclusive of everybody. Kelly’s is a people’s bar and everybody is welcome.” 

One of the missions of Mincheff’s company, J Squared Investments, is to breathe life into old buildings (similar to  another Oregon company that rehabbed a building downtown). 

“We’re betting on Tacoma, really,” said Mincheff. “What we like to do, and what we hope we’re good at, is help transforming old buildings – and turn tired old buildings into vibrant centers to the neighborhood. We like the stories of the buildings. We like to breathe new life into these buildings.” 

He added, “We love this town and the energy it holds so dear.” 

motorcycle
Photo courtesy Kelly’s Olympian Tacoma.

PAYING HOMAGE TO OLD BONES AND THE NEIGHBORHOOD

When the company bought Kelly’s Olympian Portland nearly 20 years ago, it was a grungy dive bar. Founded in 1902, the lore of the bar is this: Olympia Brewing could not get traction in the beer market in Portland, so it opened the Olympia Saloon to serve and market its brews. Sometime in the 1930s-1940s, a new owner named Kelly bought it and it became Kelly’s Olympian. 

Early on after the purchase 20 years ago, the business partners thought they might flip it into a martini bar, but “after we got the rendering, it didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel like it fit the neighborhood or the history of the area. It was a working person’s bar,” said Mincheff.

So instead, they built the concept around two things: Mincheff’s love for motorcycles and the bar’s distinctive neon sign. 

“I’m a motorcycle enthusiast and I love neon signs. Signs are a form of art,” he said. Further explaining his affinity for commercial art of the 20th century, he added, “There’s a reason Andy Warhol painted soup cans … because it was like he was saying, ‘Wake up world, the 20th century is beautiful all around you,” said Mincheff.

He also wanted to stay true to the original architecture of the neighborhood where Kelly’s Olympian Portland is located. When a neighboring business to the Portland bar decided not to renew a lease in 2008, Mincheff broke through to that space to add the entertainment venue. “We thought this could be a great music venue. That’s when the music element and the entertainment aspect of Kelly’s really took off.” 

He added, “That space was really neat. It had high ceilings. When we pulled the sheet rock back, we saw through and up, four to five feet up. There was a historic tin ceiling. That was it. We were tearing it apart and gutting it, but when we saw that in the ballroom space, the rest is history now.” 

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Photo courtesy Kelly’s Olympian Tacoma.

A PLACE FOR MOTORCYCLE CULTURE 

Expect flashes of neon signs and an homage to motorcycles in Tacoma. At Kelly’s Olympian, motorcycles descend from the ceiling at the Portland bar. “We have various BSAs and Triumphs hanging from the ceiling. Our oldest bike is a 1937 BSA Empire Star. They had great names back then.” 

In Tacoma, Mincheff’s love for motorcycles already graces the front windows at 950 Broadway. 

“The 1947 Indian Chief in the window, it’s such a cool bike.” he said. “There’s also the MV Agusta, an Italian motorcycle called the Disco Volante.” 

Mincheff’s love for Italian motorcycles will play heavily in the theme in Tacoma. 

How perfect considering Tacoma is home to the LeMay Museum. In that regard, “We would love to associate with LeMay. They do cars and coffee. We’d like to do bikes and breakfast,” he said. 

“We do the big surface lot. We own the parking lots of the 1102 building. That’s the perfect place to host stuff like that and be associated right across the street. We’ll reach out to the city as well and see if we can get motorcycle parking out front on Broadway.” 

THE RESTAURANT AND COCKTAIL LOUNGE

Kelly’s Olympian Portland is currently serving a streamlined pandemic menu, so don’t visit the website and think that’s what the menu will be like when the Tacoma location opens. 

Mincheff said diners should expect a menu heavily focused on burgers, with plenty of options for vegans and vegetarians. The bar’s previous menus have offered handmade specialties, such as hand-dipped onion rings and housemade chips and salsa. The Portland location also was widely known for its weekend breakfasts. And, of course, there will be an extensive tap list and cocktails. More information to come in the next several months.

KELLY’S OLYMPIAN TACOMA

Where: In the building at 950 Broadway, Tacoma

Opening: 2022

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

Web: https://kellysolympian.com/

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