Longtime downtown Tacoma bar Acme Tavern will close Saturday (Aug. 5).
If all goes as planned, about a week later, it will reopen as The Camp Bar.
The barkeep behind the new endeavor has been working at Acme for about six weeks while he hatched his plans for The Camp Bar.
Patrick Haight is a name synonymous with cocktails. If you spent any time immersed in the Seattle cocktail culture from the 1990s forward, you’d remember him as a lead cocktail shaker at Seattle’s popular Tini Bigs, the martini lounge.
He also wrote, literally, the book on martinis from his time at Tini Bigs (it has since closed).
So why did he pick Tacoma, and not Seattle, for his bar?
The easy answer is that Seattle is crowded with cocktail lounges while Tacoma is wide open. Haight’s love of Tacoma for opening a business is more nuanced.
“There’s this independence and this pioneer spirit in Tacoma. I love these places popping up,” said Haight, who has been touring local bars for months. He added, “And none of them were over-the-top. They all have their own identity.”
Haight said the identity he’s trying to create at The Camp Bar blends tongue-in-cheek humor with a dive bar atmosphere that serves cocktails that are good, but not fussy.
Acme had room for about 50 before the minor makeover, but seating probably will be closer to 65 when Haight’s done with the remodel that will bend the space toward a camping/lodge theme.
He’ll fill the bar with pictures of mountain scenes that he describes as “hilariously bad art,” the obligatory deer head and other funky faux lodge and camping artifacts he’s been collecting.
He’s particularly proud of the 1970s-era Sears Roebuck fireplace with logs that still glow.
“It blows out heat,” Haight said. “We’ll make it a fake fireplace people can gather around.”
That campfire theme will play out in the menu, too.
Why not create something more upscale like Tini Bigs?
“I love dive bars,” said Haight, who moved to Pierce County a few years ago. “I’ve always loved dive bars. I’ve worked all over in fine dining and with martinis and tiki drinks, but ... dive bars are so much more interesting.”
The cocktail list at The Camp Bar will be short and not fancy. No flavored ice spheres or drinking vinegars.
“They’ll be simple, not over-the-top, really approachable,” said Haight.
The Camp Bar
Where: 1310 Tacoma Ave. S., Tacoma
Hours: Open at noon daily.