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Bars where Pete has had a drink

Sunday, September 28, 2008

#707 - Doc's Tavern, Ocean Park WA - 9/26/2008

This and the Grey Parrot Brewpub are my favorite bars on the peninsula. It's a big place, an old place, stocked with history and personality and personalities. I have no primary source data on the history of the bar, but long-time owner Don Sheldon recently penned a colorful history for a calendar, a copy of which is now posted conveniently above the urinals in the mens room next to a centerfold of "Miss September":

"In 1933, at the urging of Roy E. Sheldon and Ralph Osborn, Art Matthews decided to start a tavern in Ocean Park. The trio traveled to Olympia to get a license and a tavern known as "The Whalebone" was established at this sight [sic]. The name came from the fact that dead whales which had washed up on the beach, were buried under what is now the northwest section of the tavern. Art opened at 12 noon on the 4th of July 1933, and closed an hour later at 1:00 P.M. to go to a local ball game.

Doc's Tavern, Ocean Park, WA
In 1936, Art was forced to move. A local leaseholder, following the Good Book, decided that his property shouldn't house a drinking establishment. It seems that the Methodists controlled Ocean Park and a couple devout Methodists operated a bakery across the street. They advertised "home baking," so Art mischievously advertised "home breaking."

Art didn't give up. He had a new building built at the site, which was the old Richfield Station (now Jack's Country Store's new addition). The Tavern, complete, including labor and materials, cost $744.00. He renamed it "Arts" and operated it until 1944, then sold it to A.W. "Doc" Watson.

Doc's Tavern, in business for 79 years, is the oldest tavern or bar in our area, as the liquor license was purchased immediately following the repeal of prohibition.* There have been only three owners, which is nearly unheard of in the liquor industry. Art Matthews, the first; A.W. "Doc" Watson was the second and although he passed on, is a legend in local tavern history; the third, Don Sheldon, Doc's grandson, is carrying on the family business and had the opportunity to share many years in close relationship with Doc Watson.

Before the building housing Doc's Tavern was a tavern, it had many uses. An ice cream parlor (from which the stools you sit on still exist), beauty shop, W.W.I. recruiting office, pool hall, restaurant, bakery, real estate office, antique shop, and gas station. The tavern is actually 5 buildings under one roof and the oldest section was built in 1883. There is an example of the foundation with iron nails and hand carved dowels connecting the corner. This was discovered as we replaced the foundation.

Doc's Tavern, Ocean Park, WA
Doc, a merchant marine, worked on ships while his wife ran the tavern. Doc would return home while not on duty and do the same. Things were fin until another leaseholder not caring for taverns forced another move. A deal was worked out and the original site was purchased by Doc in 1948. Doc being superstitious, kept the name "Arts" and built a lasting trade. In 1968, the tavern was enlarged to include pool tables. Doc ran the tavern for many years and built a lasting reputation in the tavern industry and community.

In 1976, Don Sheldon began working at "Arts" under the guidance of Doc Watson, and in 1979, was hired as a manager of the tavern. Doc died on April 16, 1980, while enjoying his favorite pastime, fishing. Don Sheldon then purchased "Arts" and renamed it "Doc's Tavern" in Doc's memory....

Your friend Don Sheldon"

*Very small nit here: The 21st amendment and the repeal of prohibition actually became effective only on December 5, 1933. However, it is still possible that a (legal) tavern was opened July 4 of that year as it was actually the Beer and Wine Revenue Act, effective April 7 of that year, that allowed the legal flow of beer taps to resume.

1414 Bay Ave, Ocean Park, WA 98640 - (360) 665-4105
Est. 1980 - Building constructed: 1883 (oldest section)
Previous bars in this location: The Whalebone, Art's
Web site: facebook
Articles: yelp - chinookobservor - tripadvisor

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