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Rock The Dock Pub & Grill cares

Gwen Stence rocks

Rock the Dock Pub & Grill cares. Photo credit: Steph DeRosa

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Recently I was stalking Gwen Stence, owner of Tacoma's Rock the Dock Pub & Grill, on Facebook and took a special interest in a few particular posts of hers.  I noticed there had been a string of petty thefts happening outside of her bar, which is located in a significantly low-traffic area at night.

"Yeah, they were stealing dorky stuff like the smoking chairs outside," she told me, when I asked her about the thefts. "After 5 p.m., no one is around that area, so I have no idea who is walking around." 

Stence has cameras taking video outside Rock the Dock, so some still shots of these creepers were shared on Facebook. Commentary ensued.

What was obvious by some of the commentary is how involved her customers are in the everyday happenings at Rock the Dock Pub & Grill.  Patrons voiced their outrage, compassion and downright concern for the bar. Anything that would potentially damage the overall positive atmosphere was nonsense! They weren't having it! 

Patrons loving their bar? I totally get it. Patrons loving their bartender? It's not completely unheard of. A bar having a superb following? Not news-breaking information. 

Later, Gwen posted pictures of yet another petty theft outside Rock The Dock; this time it was someone's bike.  Making the story sadder than sad is the fact that the poor owner of the recently lifted bicycle had just graduated from college and moved here from Kansas with nothing more than his backpack ... and his bike.  His simplistic approach to life had become ironically more simple - and suddenly more complicated.

His name is Jim, and it was obvious that he had no money to replace his main mode of transportation.  Gee, I wonder what could be done?  What would the typical kind-hearted bar owner that everyone loved do about Jim's predicament?

I know! Start a bike fund!

Actually, I can think of a small handful of compassionate Tacoma bar owners who might consider taking donations for a stolen bike, but not many.  Not like Gwen. On top of donations from patrons, Gwen offered to match the collected amount, up to $500.  Jim's bike was going to be replaced, damn it!  Gwen was not going to let a bunch of thieving asshats get her three crappy smoking chairs AND someone's bike, no, no, no!

Jim received the money to replace his bike, and when I asked Beverly Silva, a friendly RTD patron, about the bike fund, she filled me in on the charitable acts of every RTD patron.

"One day, I just walked in and said I needed help moving," she says with a laugh, "and they were all eager to help! As a matter of fact, they were arguing over who would do it!"

The contagious positive attitude that Gwen exudes toward Rock The Dock's patrons is shared with her staff as well. That attitude spreads like wildfire and this, I believe, is the big reason behind RTD's crazy success.  By success, I mean that her bar is consistently packed, and her food sales are through the roof. 

"My accountant is shocked that a bar could have such high food sales," she said with a laugh.

Since Gwen purchased the bar five years ago, she's never had a bouncer. 

"(Bouncers) seem so threatening and unwelcoming," she explained. She has no managers, and no one is the boss. "I just hire good people and get out of their way," she said.

The way Gwen runs her business is not mainstream, to say the least.  Not every bar owner would be as successful.  But for some reason it works for RTD, and it works well.

Even without her three smoking chairs.

ROCK THE DOCK PUB & GRILL, 11 a.m. to midnight Monday and Tuesday, 11-2 a.m. Wednesday-Friday, 9-2 a.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to midnight Sunday, 535 Dock St., Tacoma, 253.272.5004

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