TNT Diner

Downtown Tacoma cocktail lounge has closed permanently

The Fern Room in downtown Tacoma.
The Fern Room in downtown Tacoma.

The Fern Room in downtown Tacoma has closed.

The cocktail lounge was a retro-themed bar that operated at 728 Pacific Ave. The bar had a menu that could have been served at grandma’s pinochle game and cocktails today’s young bartenders don’t know how to make (see: Harvey Wallbanger and Grasshopper).

The name was a nod to a category of bars from the 1970s called “fern bars.” That style of bars has seen a recent resurgence.

Before it became The Fern Room last year, it was a tiki bar called Tacoma Cabana. Jason and Robyn Alexander opened Tacoma Cabana in 2012.

Tacoma Cabana featured a menu of rum-heavy tropical drinks not often found in the area. Jason Alexander built his boozy concoctions from a few hundred different kinds of rum the bar stocked and elixirs that Alexander blended from scratch. In 2014, he won the national Iron TikiTender competition and the bar received regional attention for its cocktail creations.

Last year, the couple opened a second bar, Devil’s Reef, a nautical-themed bar in the St. Helens neighborhood.

The Fern Room LEDE 1.jpg
A tequila sunrise, left, and The Spaghetti Western, from The Fern Room in downtown Tacoma. Sue Kidd

While Devil’s Reef steadily saw increased business, Tacoma Cabana saw a decline.

The owners had plans to hand over the Tacoma Cabana space to another owner, but that plan fell through and the couple decided to make over and flip the concept to a new bar.

They opened The Fern Room in September.

“Wrong place at the wrong time,” said Jason Alexander via message about The Fern Room’s closure. “It was picking up steam, but we don’t have the capital to ride it out and Devil’s Reef can’t pay for it forever.”

“We still believe strongly in the concept of The Fern Room. It just might pop up someday, somewhere else. But until then, our focus is going to be back at Devil’s Reef,” he said.

Captain Obed’s Grog from Devil’s Reef in Tacoma. Joshua Bessex

Devil’s Reef is loosely themed as a tiki concept, but with a darker, moodier vibe that’s something like a swanky pirate’s cove with high-end rum cocktails.

Devil’s Reef will continue to operate at 706 Court C (across Opera Alley from Over The Moon).

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Sue Kidd has been The News Tribune’s restaurant critic since 2008. She dines anonymously and The News Tribune pays for all meals. Sue is a South Sound native. She writes about new restaurants, openings and closures and knows where to find the best tacos in every neighborhood.