Bars where Pete has had a Drink (5,835 bars; 1,754 bars in Seattle) - Click titles below for Lists:

Bars where Pete has had a drink

Monday, December 25, 2017

#2596 - Ariel Tavern, Ariel, WA - 8/23/2014

Ariel General Store and Tavern, Ariel, WA
The Ariel Tavern is well worth going out of your way for, but at the time I am posting this it is undergoing some very substantial renovation and the re-opening date is uncertain. If anyone unfamiliar with the owner and locals is considering going, I would check the owner's Facebook page and/or givn him a call first.

On this visit in August of 2014, we spoke with Bryan Woodruff, whose mother Dona Elliot was the owner, but who, Bryan informed us, was suffering from stage four kidney disease. I later learned that Dona passed away a little over a year later. Bryan inherited the store and pub, but not the business license, and the state apparently declined to grandfather it in and the store requires very substantial upgrades to state and county code before it can be re-licensed. Bryan is currently working on these and many other improvements. Normally I would feel a mild panic over a remodel of an old place like this whose charm arises largely from its evident age, its paucity of modernity, and the ramshackle accumulation curious artifacts over many years. However, a glance at the Facebook page indicates that Bryan is putting impressive work into restoring items to their previous place as he cleans and paints -- even cleaning off old bumper stickers with vinegar to replace them on newly painted beams.

Ariel Tavern, Ariel, WA
The work is in very large part a tribute to his mother, who purchased the place in 1990, and built on the decor and traditions of the place. The salient tradition is the annual D.B. Cooper celebration, which then owner Jermain Tricolor started in 1974. Cooper, you will recall, was the name used by an unknown man who parachuted from a hijacked Northwest Orient flight on November 24, 1971 with $200,000 in cash (over $1m in current dollars) tied around his waste, never to be found again. Authorities believe he did not survive to use any of the cash, but theories vary widely and there is no shortage of authors and amateur investigators among the hundreds who have descended each year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving upon this bar in tiny Ariel, on the southwest bank of Lake Merwin in southwest Washington state. The annual festivities are temporarily suspended for the remodeling, but Woodruff plans to resume as soon as the old bar is up to code and presentable.

Brian Woodruff, current owner, Ariel Tavern
The tradition started after the bar was used by many of the FBI agents and soldiers from Fort Lewis who participated in an extensive ground serach for Cooper in March 1972. The store appears to have been constructed here in 1929, and is unclear how soon it became a (legal) bar. The Mountain News stated that "Initially, the Ariel Store was built in 1929 to serve as a post office, grocery store, and pub for the workers building the nearby Merwin Dam across the Lewis River." This is probably largely true, with the exception of the "pub" part, as the dam was completed in 1931 -- i.e. before the end of prohibition. A local woman named Margaret Colf Hepola, who provided Dona Elliot a brief history of the area and appears to have known whereof she spoke, described it this way:
"The Ariel Post Office was moved five miles west of its old site onto the Northwestern Electric construction site at the west end of the project in 1927 to help get the mail to the workers. Local residents also had to pass through an inspection gate to get their mail. Following an encounter with a U.S. Postal Inspector, the Ariel Post Office was removed from the construction site to what had become the new location of the Runyan Store, also located at the west end of Merwin Dam and a short ways from the Northwestern Electric site.... I have childhood memories of traveling by horse and wagon to the old Ariel Store and buying penny candy. As a teen I joined other youth swimming in a nearby slough. Old Ariel was the meeting place for neighbors and friends to swim and picnic together. The old Ariel location is gone forever and now lives only in my memories." 
Ariel Tavern, Ariel, WA
Much to my regret I have never made it here for the big celebration of America's only unsolved skyjacking case. Since I would very much like to do this some day -- and because I just generally love this old bar -- I am delighted to see that someone who cares about the bar, its past, and its artifacts is working to reopen it. It will be high on my list for future roadtrips when I hear it is open again.

Ariel Tavern, Ariel, WA

   For more great old bars in Washington state see my map.

288 Merwin Village Rd, Ariel, WA 98603 - (360) 225-7126
Bar Est. ? - Building constructed: 1929
Previous bars in this location: None known
Web site: facebook
Reviews: themountainnewswa - themountainnewswa  

1 comment:

Robert M Blevins said...

Owner Bryan Woodruff announced in July 2020 that he is undergoing treatment for Stage IV brain cancer and he is concentrated on recovering from that, before moving on to anything regarding the Ariel Tavern. More information at his Facebook page. It's a tragedy for sure, and it looks doubtful the tavern will ever re-open.