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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

#2397 - U Betcha, Tacoma, WA - 1/12/2014

U Betcha is one of several fine old dive bars on Tacoma's Pacific Avenue. There has been a bar here since at least shortly after prohibition. It was the Forty-Third Street Tavern (or some slight variation on that) since from at least the 1960s to the Summer of 2010. I'm not sure how long it had the same name before that, but there was a tavern here, owned by Charles Jacobs, since at least 1935.  In 2010 the name was change to "U Betcha Pub."

On this night I chatted with locals Thomas and Mike, two older gentlemen who were both drinking from massively generous pours of red wine, Thomas with a straw. And they had quite the stories.

Thomas was sent to a reform school in Brooklyn, after his mother stabbed her boyfriend when he was 11. He was recruited into the army and served for ten years, stationed at Ft. Lewis, with stints in both Vietnam and South Korea. Nevertheless, he says the times in his life when he felt most in danger were while driving a bus for Pierce County Transit. He talked of one night when he was caught in a gunfight between Crips and Bloods, with one of the gangs running him into the curb and parking in front and in back of him. One gang member pointed a gun at him and told him to open the door, but he would not. They shot through the front, and Thomas drove the bus backwards and then charged at them with it, then plowed away down the street.

Thomas told another story about a night in a Vietnamese restaurant where people started yelling about being Viet Cong, scuffling with a military vet with a .45 in his belt, then taking off with the vet chasing them. (Thomas later heard that one of them was killed that night, but I can't remember which.) As he finishes his story, a younger man hands Thomas a $5 bill to choose the music on the jukebox, stipulating "But no Jolene."

Mike had his own stories of shootings in LA, and ducking to avoid gunfire. Mike was a sax player in Los Angeles, and his stories included seeing some fire up the road from where he was playing one night, which turn out to the Watts riots.

I was pulled into U Betcha by the great sign out front, but it was the friendly welcome and engaging stories that really made my visit. Thanks, guys.


4302 Pacific Ave, Tacoma, Washington 98418                    
Est. Summer 2010
Previous bars in this location: Forty-Third Street Tavern

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