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).
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.