'The Fid' celebrates 70 years

The neighborhood watering hole just had a birthday, and a significant one at that. The Fiddler's Inn, in the heart of Wedgwood celebrated its 70th year of operation last week.

The festivities included a lineup of local musicians, big-screen sports events and, of course, copious amounts of beer.

The history runs as deep and rich as the beer flowing from the tap. Opened in 1933, at the end of Prohibition, it now exists as one of the few free-standing taverns in the state, and one of even fewer left from the first wave of post-Prohibition taverns.

Walter Haines, an underemployed bass and tuba player, needed a steady income because a musician's salary was not adequate. When the alcohol laws changed, 13 years of rapping on the doors of speak-easies were quickly forgotten as Haines provided a friendly neighborhood location for the locals to ham it up over a cold one.

Through 70 years of business and ownership changes, the small house-like structure has thrived, providing a strong sense of community.

"It's an extension of my home," said Eric Guttormsen, who has frequented "The Fid" for almost six years. "It has a nice atmosphere, it's laid-back and it's friendly."

These sentiments were shared by Pritam Andreassen, a regular for almost two years. "It's three blocks away [from my home], and on a nice day, sitting out on the porch is great. I like it more in the evenings, though, before the college crowd [arrives]."

When The Fiddler remodeled its kitchen a few years ago, Guttormsen ate dinner at the tavern almost every night, where pizza and the salads are considered the specialty. "I used to perform at the open-mics for one free beer, but the food is especially great," he said. The pizza and salads represent a far cry from the menu of the 1930s, which consisted of chips and pickled eggs.

The tavern has gone through small physical changes as well, including a renovation in 1994. For the building itself and some interior features, current co-manager Bob Brenlin said, "Everything was kept 'as-is' for the renovation.'"

He said the tavern is likened more to a pub: "It's a neighborhood pub, but we have a tavern license, which we'll change in the future."

The tavern keeps with the tradition of the founder Haines through its musical flavor. Featuring folk, jazz and roots rock, Brenlin said The Fiddler likes to showcase underemployed and unknown musical acts to provide them with an opportunity to play.

Guttormsen recalls "Fiddlestock," a local music festival created by the tavern that was fashioned after the famous Woodstock festival.

"Everybody thought it was going to be a bunch of fiddle players, but they set up a stage outside, and it was a lot of fun, with many different styles," he said.

With all the good beer flowing for so many years, there is something that keeps the regulars coming back. And although Guttormsen can't seem to place it, other than the food, he only said, "I've been to many watering holes in Seattle, and none really compare to this place."

John Ferensen can be reached via e-mail at needitor@nwlink.com.[[In-content Ad]]