ParkWay Tavern to celebrate 79th birthday, youngest employee tells all

By Ron Swarner on July 23, 2014

Back in the days before new taproom arrivals were noted in Tweets and brewers dropping off kegs morphed into four-course beer and food pairing events, there was the ParkWay Tavern, nestled in Tacoma's North Slope Historic District. The classic neighborhood bar still stands, surrounded by historic homes and fronting a busy street. In fact, the ParkWay looks pretty good for turning 79 Saturday. Sure, It went through a slight facelift eight years ago, adding the brick patio and party lounge to gain back some youth. But, you certainly won't find a restroom with fancy-schmancy bathroom fixtures that look like the bastard offspring of the IKEA catalog.

In the grand scheme of things, the craft beer industry is still young, and the new pubs and taprooms showcase that youth with slick designs and huge wooden communal tables. The ParkWay grew into the craft beer industry, serving pitchers of Bridgeport IPA for those trying to play pool with warped sticks in the early 2000s. Over the years, the tavern has been home to the area's most knowledgeable beer aficionados, including Barry Watson (now co-owner of Pint Defiance with wife, Renee) and John O'Gara, the 52-year-old ParkWay long-time manager who passed away from health issues this past spring (RIP). Jeff Fraychineaud still owns the joint (as well as the Corner Bar four blocks away). Bartender Sean Jackson moved into O'Gara's management position, but still can match wits when bartender Nicholas Brosier turns it on (here's proof).

The ParkWay is good. It's secure with its age. It proudly shows its wrinkles, and flaunts it with historic Tacoma prints and retro beer signage covering the walls. The latest and greatest craft beers line up behind the bar. It's where the service industry and alcohol reps drink, as well as those beyond walking distance. And, it's going to sing happy birthday loud and strong Saturday, although doctors are on call at nearby Tacoma General.

The ParkWay's "79th Birthday Partay" includes a "Badass Tacomacentric Beer Line Up," a beer garden in its backyard, Chad's BBQ out front, punkgrass band Rusty Cleavers jammin' around 3 p.m., Mr. Gibson's FroYo Wagon pulls up around 4, plus the release of the new ParkWay Tavern hoodies.

One of the proudest at the party has only worked there three months, the day shift on the weekends. Former Tacoma School of the Arts student and once Weekly Volcano intern Emily Meyers is 56 years younger than the tavern, "but we get along just fine despite the age difference" she says.

I caught up with Meyers before Saturday's big bash.

WEEKLY VOLCANO: Why did you choose the ParkWay Tavern to sling beers and food?

EMILY MEYERS: I had actually been a patron of the ParkWay before I started working there. It was a favorite spot when I was living on I Street. Even when I moved out of the area I would still ride my bicycle down for a drink and a bite to eat. I thought it was a homey tavern with really amazing and sweet bartenders.

VOLCANO: What are your favorite ParkWay experiences so far?

MEYERS: My favorite experiences so far, because I anticipate many more to come, have been getting to know my weekend regulars. They are a varied and interesting bunch to say the least. I also loved being a part of World Cup mayhem, groups of boisterous fans keeping me on my toes as a new bartender. Being hired when I did has allowed me to get to know the ParkWay in the summertime: patio plus puppies and craft beer make for a wonderful first bartending experience.

VOLCANO: I have been capitalizing the "W" in ParkWay to match the sign in front of the building. Condemn or allow?

MEYERS: I'll allow it! The snazzier you can get with the ParkWay the better.

VOLCANO: How cool is bartender Katie Lowery?

MEYERS: On a scale of one to ten? Freaking fantastic. Best sense of humor and so chill.

VOLCANO: What's the craziest thing you seen longtime ParkWay bartender Nicholas Brosier do?

MEYERS: Oh my gosh, where do I start? I would have to say when he confiscated a light-up "disco stick" and proceeded to pull a Gandalf. He basically twirled it then slammed it down and yelled, "Though shall not sass!"

VOLCANO: What's your favorite piece of art hanging on the wall?

MEYERS: My favorite picture has to be the one above the middle booth by the pool table. It's of a kindly looking barkeep with the biggest handlebar mustache. He reminds me so much of Jordan (the fiancé). Even one of his friends said, "Look Jordan, it's a picture of you when you're older!" A close second is the long sign above the entrance to the pool table stating that the liver is evil and must be punished.

VOLCANO: When you're off duty, what beer do you take out to the ParkWay's front patio?

MEYERS: I'm usually drinking any amber or saison I can get my hands on. I like something that's different with a lot of flavor.

Thanks Emily. Happy birthday, ParkWay Tavern! Here's to another 79.

PARKWAY'S 79th BIRTHDAY PARTAY, 2 p.m. to close, ParkWay Tavern, 313 N. I St., Tacoma, 253.383.8748