Cumberland hot spot still packs ‘em in | Wally’s World

I’m not sure when Fred Nolte, of Deep Lake fame, originally built the Cumberland saloon. Suffice to say, he opened it as a hotel sometime before 1900.

In the 1920s, during Prohibition, I’m not sure who owned the place but it became one of the more notorious bootlegging operations on the Plateau. The rooms upstairs were used by “working girls” – if that label is acceptable in these politically correct times – and the ground floor was a popular speakeasy. It isn’t known which enterprise was the most profitable.

In the mid-1920s, this bootleg business, and a similar operation in the Krain region, were simultaneously raided by the state police, the county sheriff, and the feds, who seized and destroyed more than 700 gallons of illegal booze. Apparently, the authorities didn’t bother the prostitutes because they continued their trade, uninterrupted.

After Prohibition went down the drain, the place reopened as a tavern; that is, it served only wine and beer.   In the late 1930s, the hookers use to hang out the upstairs windows and throw candy to the children in the parking lot. The last of the “girls” left town in the mid-1940s, looking for more profitable turf.

I first went in the place in 1968 when it was known as Big Mike’s. Unfortunately, I never met him. I say “unfortunately” because I understand he was quite a colorful fellow.

Jeff Benchley has owned it for the past 20 years. He named it City Hall and did some remodeling, but not enough to destroy the historic flavor.

Today, everyone is well aware of “taco Thursday” when, owing to some kind of mysterious, ethereal vortex, perhaps 2,000 bikers from all over King and Pierce counties converge, en masse, on this venerable, uplands watering hole; they come and go all evening long so, at any particular time, there probably aren’t more than 300 or 400 there. If you haven’t yet witnessed this phenomenon, it’s well worth the drive.

And now, on Wednesday evenings, there’s a similarly unexplained and baffling congregation of antique car enthusiasts who exhibit their treasures in the parking lot. Tell you what, there’s a lot of chrome. New, refurbished and shiny chrome. There’s a 1956 Chevrolet Belair – my parents’ car back-in-the-day – in exquisite, mint condition, looking as though it had just been driven off the showroom floor, except that its multi-layered, luxurious paint job was beyond anything available in the Fifties. Over there, find a 1935 Plymouth convertible with a 350 engine and a turbo-hydromatic tranny. And here’s a 1937 Chev pickup with some kind of high-powered, awesome motor that surely prepares it for drag-races at the Pacific track.

At any rate, if you’re into old cars, you might want to check this out and enjoy a drink or two in the beer garden while we still have a few warm, summer evenings.

I’d recommend this outdoor scene and the friendly company even if you don’t give a damn about the cars.