Village Pub crosses the street

Magnolia residents and visitors may have noticed the recent changes to Magnolia Village. A few retail stores closed this season, leaving behind empty storefronts-never a welcome sight.

But Matt Baker, owner of Magnolia's Village Pub, had an idea to take advantage of the available space. When a large clothing boutique across the street from his pub closed, he decided his establishment could use a major makeover.

The Village Pub has been in its current location at 32nd and McGraw since June 2003. It was purchased by Baker and his business partner in the hopes of converting what was once a poorly managed, grimy neighborhood bar with one television into a thriving village attraction for the Magnolia sports fan.

Already co-owner of Fremont's popular Triangle Tavern, Baker had the vision and experience to update the pub's fading image. Yet Baker and his partner had differing ideas about which way to take Magnolia Village's lone bar, and soon after purchasing it, they parted ways. His partner retained ownership of the Triangle, and the Village Pub became Matt's own project.

Baker said he "always wanted to do a full- blown sports bar," and now he could officially begin converting the Village Pub into a Magnolia sports fan hot spot.

"We gave it a huge face lift," he said. "It was like a dive bar. In the heart of Magnolia that doesn't really work."

Baker and his staff completely updated the interior and added a total of 30 plasma screen TVs, ensuring that customers would never miss a minute of any sporting event. Even Baker admits he "kind of went crazy with TVs."

As word of mouth grew and the pub became more and more popular, Baker said he noticed an interesting trend. Rather that drawing a large, late-night drinking crowd, the bulk of the Village Pub's business came from the food. Many families in the neighborhood would come to the pub for lunch and dinner, and the pub was more than happy to enlarge its once limited bar menu to accommodate.

But the problem with running a successful restaurant out of a sports bar: It became apparent that the small kitchen was not nearly large enough to make all the food for the pub's patrons.

"When we're really busy, the kitchen can't keep up," Baker said. "When people start waiting for their food, that's a strike against you."

Baker considered expanding the kitchen in the pub's current location, and spoke with Tully's about the possibility of them vacating so the pub could expand next door. But when the owner of Magnolia Tree, the clothing boutique right across the street, decided to retire, Baker pestered them until they agreed to let him lease the location.

Aside from a much larger kitchen and expanded menu, Baker had some big plans for the new Village Pub. "This bar was pieced together as I went, so the new one will be built exactly as I want," he said. "Over there everything will be nice, new and clean."

The new and improved Village Pub will be more than double in size-nearly 5,000 square feet. There will be three pool tables, shuffle board, dart boards and plenty of seating.

When it isn't raining, pub patrons will be able to dine and drink out on the rooftop deck as well as watch sporting events on outdoor TVs.

Baker admits that not everyone has been happy about that particular addition. Close neighbors have expressed concern about noise from the rooftop deck. According to Baker, however, "everyone other than at the Bellagio [apartment complex across the street] is happy about it. I will obviously put restrictions on it; I want to be a good person to the community. No hooting and hollering at 2 a.m. ... All along I planned to be conscious of the noise factor over there."

Baker said he also wanted to make sure the new Village Pub retained its sportsbar roots, so there will be nearly double the number of plasma TVs. Inspired by Las Vegas' ESPN Zone, Baker will also add a VIP section to the pub that will accommodate 30-35 people and can be rented out for private parties for roughly $1,000 a night.

And since the Village Pub has proven just as much of a restaurant as a sports bar, the new menu will feature some appetizing new additions. "We will keep popular things that are selling," he said, "but will have upgrades like fish and prime rib, as well as a happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m."

So what will become of the old Village Pub location? According to Baker, it will stay all in the family. He has agreed to lease the property to his sister, who will remodel the space to open a kid's café. It will serve family fare and have a separate play section so that kids can run around while their parents dine.

Since the new business will be family friendly, they have decided to let their patrons also name the new venture, and in the near future will announce a contest for Magnolia residents to help pick the name of the new café.

So when can Magnolia residents expect the grand unveiling of their new village? Since Baker is a huge Washington State Cougars fan, he was hoping to have the new Village Pub grand opening by their first game on Sept. 2, but lengthy remodeling has pushed that back to about halfway through the football season.

Until then, sports fans, foodies and families can still cheer on their favorite teams at the old Village Pub.

Debbie Siegelbaum is a freelance writer living in Magnolia.[[In-content Ad]]