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‘I would just love to live here.’ McMenamins opens in Tacoma to huge crowds, rave reviews

Locals swoon over McMenamins Elks Temple on opening day

McMenamins Elks Temple in Tacoma opens to huge crowds and rave reviews as local residents and workers on lunch breaks flock to the site to see bagpipers outside and all the artwork that’s happened inside.
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McMenamins Elks Temple in Tacoma opens to huge crowds and rave reviews as local residents and workers on lunch breaks flock to the site to see bagpipers outside and all the artwork that’s happened inside.

Judging by Wednesday’s crowd reaction, it was worth the wait.

McMenamins reopened the doors of Tacoma’s Elks Temple early Wednesday morning after years of renovations and restorations.

And Tacoma showed up to rediscover it.

Throngs milled around inside the lobby and on the multiple floors, taking in views of Tacoma not seen from the building in years. One family gasped, “There’s the Spanish Steps!” when they turned and looked out a window in a stairs corridor.

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A view of the Spanish Steps from inside McMenamins Elks Temple. Debbie Cockrell debbie.cockrell@thenewstribune.com

The newness was evident with interior railings sticky from fresh paint, and a ladder was still in evidence on one of the hotel room floors. The new carpet/paint smell was everywhere.

But no one was complaining, at least on site.

One attendee who drove from Renton to Tacoma for business at the courthouse sat in the Elks’ lobby “just to people watch.”

Diane, who did not give her last name, said, “It’s so amazing what they’ve done to this building. It’s fantastic. I’ve been to the ones in Portland, but this is far, far more grand.

“I would just love to live here.”

Upstairs, one young family noted a hallway’s artwork depicting “Father-Daughter and Father-Son Night,” which is part of the Elks’ history.

“They should do that again here,” said the dad.

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Artwork capturing the history of the Elks can be found in the hallways. Debbie Cockrell debbie.cockrell@thenewstribune.com

Outside, waiting for the bagpipe performance to begin, William and Leah Johnson of Tacoma said the site was “on par with the best” among all the McMenamins’ sites.

The Johnsons said have been to almost all of the McMenamins sites between here and Oregon. “Like, 95 percent of them,” William estimated.

“We’ve traveled up and down the coast to their other locations. Our passport is almost full,” Leah added.

McMenamins has a passport program for frequent visitors who collect different stamps based on different locations and activities.

The two were rapid fire with describing what they’d seen.

“I love all the hidden, cozy bars,” said Leah.

“I’m surprised they’ve got so much artwork up already,” said William.

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Artwork mixing famous regional icons such as Jimi Hendrix with local iconic images adorn the floors of McMenamins Elks Temple. Debbie Cockrell debbie.cockrell@thenewstribune.com

“I can’t wait to go to the Tiki Room,” he added. “We peeked inside, it looks amazing. The ballroom looks like ‘Beauty and the Beast.’”

Compared to other McMenamins’ sites, “It doesn’t have the pool and fire pits, but maybe out here,” William said looking out over the Spanish Steps, where a Lime scooter was parked nearby.

“For what it is in the middle of the city, it’s pretty amazing,” he added.

Inside, one worker taking names and reservations at the main restaurant said it had been “controlled chaos.”

Take a peek inside bars, lounges and hotel rooms of the newly renovated - and highly anticipated - McMenamin's Elks Temple in Tacoma

By 11 a.m. it was a 45-minute estimated wait for seating for two in main restaurant.

The hotel lobby was equally swamped with a mix of people checking in and seeking information.

Hotel rooms with interior windows were illuminated for guests to peek inside. Staff reminded guests to lock their doors, “or someone may just walk in to see the room, since this is opening day.”

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Hotel rooms with interior windows overlooking the hallway were illuminated on opening day for visitors to see inside. Debbie Cockrell debbie.cockrell@thenewstribune.com

Nearby, a worker was getting the site’s official stamp ready for its first passport participants.

It took a few tries to get it working. “Brand new,” she laughed.

Outside, bagpipe performers made their way around the building, which attracted a crowd that included two Tacoma Power workers on their lunch break from a site nearby.

“We heard the music,” said one. “This is pretty cool.”

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