If you’ve been around Enumclaw more than eight or 10 years and if, in your time, you have haunted any of the local bars, you’ll surely recall the old Rainier Tavern. It was a decidedly down home, unsophisticated club that was a speakeasy in the 1920s, a card room in the 1930s and ‘40s and a favorite watering hole for loggers in the 1950s. During the 1960s, it appealed to Enumclaw’s fledgling hippies and in the ‘70s it was home base for a few would-be punks and Cobain followers. In other words, it had always been a small-town alcove for fellows and gals who were, more or less, sort of rebellious, unorthodox, and a bit out of step with the local culture in general. Through the years, business gradually decreased until there was only a handful of regular customers.
It’s very different today. In 2005, Jeff and Debbie Schweter bought the business. They clearly realized that the heyday of massive, youthful alienation had passed and Enumclaw was no longer an isolated small town. Instead, Enumclaw was just another suburban blip on the radar screen that was Greater Seattle’s urban sprawl and our youth were simply another all-American suburban generation. As such, Jeff and Debbie reasoned, Enumclaw was ready for a suburban club like those that characterized Southcenter, Federal Way and the Highway 99 corridor. They remodeled the place, revamped the menu and the chefs and updated the beverage mix.
The rest is history. Today, the Rainier Bar and Grill is one of the most popular clubs in south King County.
Of late, Jeff and Debbie have been struck by the fact that our downtown area no longer has a pizzeria. Consequently, they’ve taken over the vacant storefront that used to be Cafe Panini — and before that Sunrise Pharmacy — and will soon open another restaurant and lounge. The place is being profoundly remodeled with autumn colors, dark woods, stone masonry and a granite bar.
They’ll call it Jackson’s and it will specialize in two types of pizza; first, the famous, thin-crust, New York-style pizza with one or two toppings and, second, a pizza with a crust thick enough to support several types of cheeses and any number of toppings. They’ll also serve various salads and pastas but, as Jeff quickly points out, you shouldn’t presume it will be an Italian restaurant because the menu will be too varied for such a categorization.
More important — to a person with my warped sentiments — the place will have a full bar. It will be unique to Enumclaw because patrons will have an open view of the street pedestrians and traffic and those outside will be able to see inside. Such a design is common to clubs in nearly every American city and most suburbs, so it’s about time one came to Enumclaw.
A grand opening is planned for sometime in March. Thereafter, you’ll find me seated in the window sipping a dry martini, with or without a slice of pizza.