BIZNOTE: ‘Passing of the torch’ at Poggie Tavern – new ownership after 23 years

(WSB photos)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

“It’s just time.”

That’s the simple explanation from Mike Merlino, as he and wife Joni retire from 23 years of owning The Junction’s legendary Poggie Tavern (4717 California SW).

They closed the deal today with new owners Joel Stedman and Margo Beaver , who you might know for their first West Seattle establishment, Larry’s Tavern (3405 California SW).

(Joel Stedman, Margo Beaver, Joni & Mike Merlino)

We talked with everyone right after Joel met with Poggie employees to talk about the transition.

First thing he wants Poggie patrons to know: It’s not changing … much. Just some additions – like liquor. Bigger TVs. Maybe some games – pool, pinball. Maybe even more pulltabs than the abundant stock behind the Poggie’s bar. The staff’s staying. The hours – (corrected) 11 am to 2 am – the same. The Poggie will still have live music every weekend.

“Our goal is to preserve the place,” says Joel. “… keep things close to what people know the Poggie for.” He adds that they’re “pretty pumped … excited to be in the heart of The Junction.” The transition is more a “passing of the torch,” he says, than a takeover. He’s also thinking they’ll celebrate the Poggie “brand” a little more than has happened historically – T-shirts and other swag. (Really, you gotta love the fancy-dressed fish.)

And yes, he and Margo are keeping Larry’s, which he says has “exceeded our expectations” after less than half a year, as well as their other four (non-West Seattle) venues. They own that building (but for the Poggie, they’re tenants).

Though the tavern was bustling with transitional activity when we werr there this afternoon – besides the staff meeting, a new point-of-sale system for starters – most of the additions wiil be gradual: Liquor by Summer Fest, TV upgrades by next football season.

This is all in the spirit of the simple upgrades the Merlinos made when they took over 23 years ago. It’s a place dating back at least to the ’40s, with many memories – they’ve had patrons who talked about parents and grandparents having come in – and now, they’re part of those memories themselves.

22 Replies to "BIZNOTE: 'Passing of the torch' at Poggie Tavern - new ownership after 23 years"

  • Barb vadakin January 21, 2020 (7:33 pm)

    How exciting for you guys!!! We might just go there, lol.

  • john January 21, 2020 (7:42 pm)

    Congratulations.I hope they keep the music coming in the low down tradition of Poggie’s.

  • Lela Bryan January 21, 2020 (8:23 pm)

    What 6 now????

  • Marnie January 21, 2020 (8:29 pm)

    Huge win for West Seattle. The Poggie stays and gets a little cooler instead of turning into starbucks or condos!

  • Jack Fisher January 21, 2020 (8:32 pm)

    Can’t be a Tavern with liquor. Don’t add it !!!

    • Seriously? January 22, 2020 (8:44 am)

      Wow. That’s interesting – learned something new today. (This is a genuine question from someone who knows little about liquor licenses) is it the name “Tavern” enough to disallow hard liquor, or does the business need to be classified as a tavern? Would a change of name/classification allow the addition of hard liquor? I’m truly curious about this.

  • sw January 21, 2020 (9:20 pm)

    Time to settle a longstanding debate.  Is the tavern pronounced POE-gie or POG-gie?

    • Ken January 22, 2020 (1:13 am)

      @ SW: Ha,  I’ve always wondered that as well.

    • helpermonkey January 22, 2020 (8:16 am)

      I’ve always pronounced it “POE-Gie” as per the locals, but it galls me every time I look at the sign, because that is clearly “POG-gie” 

    • Seriously? January 22, 2020 (4:37 pm)

      What if the “O” is a short sound, like the “O” in dog; then it would be PAW-GIE! 🐺 (See what I did there 😁)

  • A.D. January 21, 2020 (10:16 pm)

    It would be cool if they made it easier to figure out who’s playing the live music and when.  I really want to visit some time.

    • WSB January 21, 2020 (11:18 pm)

      As you probably now, the schedule is usually just taped up in the window. I don’t have someone assigned to the “go look at windows” beat so we only get Poggie music listings if one of the bands sends us info, as sometimes they do. So I suggested to Joel they might consider a website… when venues put their schedules on the web, they’re searchable, easy to find, no algprithmic interference, and we can find them for cross-posting here too. – TR

  • Meyer January 22, 2020 (7:22 am)

    Wow can’t believe its been around for so long, especially with the same name. I’d be curious to know when it originally opened.Can’t wait to check out the place under new ownership. I hope they keep the grittiness of it and don’t try to gentrify it and start selling $18 cocktails with a single oz of liquor in them.

  • Bill curtin January 22, 2020 (1:20 pm)

    The SLAGS a west seattle original rockers are playing Poggies 2/7  for those that have never been to Poggies cmon down!,

  • 4thGen_WS_Native January 22, 2020 (2:03 pm)

    It’s pronounced “POE-gie” as in this example:
    What is a Poggie you say? “poggie is the fish at the bottom of the fish food chain, also known as the Menhaden. …seems appropriate.

  • justme January 22, 2020 (2:37 pm)

    We love Larry’s Tavern so this will be great! Larry’s currently has the best bartender in the hood! His name is Ian. Fun, personable, and makes great cocktails!

  • Poggielover January 22, 2020 (6:23 pm)

    Cautiously optimistic, really hope the changes are minimal. Liquor + Poggie swag = improvements. Personally not a fan of yet another place in West Seattle where giant TV screens would dominate the vibe. Do we really need more of that, especially in the Junction?  I was initially excited about Larry’s but the harsh glare in that space from the TVs and too-bright lighting is a big buzzkill. Let music set the tone in this beloved tavern, not the TVs.

    • Kelley January 24, 2020 (11:27 am)

      I agree with poggielover. The junction doesn’t need more tvs. The only place on the junction that doesn’t have them is west 5, that’s why we go there

  • Villagegreen January 22, 2020 (7:20 pm)

    What Poggielover said! Please don’t dumb down the Poggie. The bright lights and faux dive bar atmosphere of Larry’s fills a void in West Seattle I guess, but changing the vibe at the Poggie would be freaking criminal.

  • Jim February 6, 2020 (1:31 pm)

  • jim February 6, 2020 (1:39 pm)

    The Ranken File band is there this Saturday – c’mon down! 

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