In his “Under the Needle” column, former Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Mike Lewis reported on outside the mainstream, quirky and colorful “stories from the streets of Seattle." Now Lewis, who lost his job and his column when the print edition of the P-I folded this year, has made a career choice that would have made him perfect subject for one of his columns.

Proposed headline: “Under the Needle: Former Newspaper Columnist Buys Neighborhood Dive Where Reporters Rub Elbows with Barflys”.

Lewis, drawing on his P-I severance money, is in the process of buying the funky and frayed-around-the-edges Streamline Tavern, located at 121 W. Mercer in lower Queen Anne (under the Needle, pretty much), where for the past five years he spent his Thursday nights moonlighting as a bartender.
After losing his gig at the P-I, Lewis jetted around the country on several freelance assignments for gossip mag US Weekly, including a trip to Alaska to write about the Palin family follies, and he says he'd like to continue to do a little freelancing as time permits. But in the end, he came back to the comfortable old watering hole, long a haunt of younger P-I reporters, particularly on nights when Lewis, 44, is tending bar.

“I spent my severance to purchase a minimum wage job,” Lewis jokes about the decision.

To judge from patron reviews on web sites like Yelp.com, the Streamline generates its share of affection from local residents—“this is a great place to come when you are feeling sorry for yourself,” read one evocative comment—but like other taverns (and like many of the patrons who frequent them), the Streamline had fallen on hard times recently.

In swept Lewis and several friends to save the day. Joining Lewis on the new ownership team are his girlfriend, Mary McIntyre, a long-time bartender at the Blue Moon (and a former Rat City Rollergirl), Gary Kelfner, a former owner of the College Inn Pub in the U District, and John Herrmann, the owner of the Lock & Keel in Ballard.

Lewis and his co-owners plan to revive the old dive. That means making changes to a place where almost nothing has changed in 30 years – and where the retro feel remains a big part of the charm.

Lewis understands the dilemma. He says a certain amount of change is necessary to catch up with the tastes of younger generation of (more upscale) drinkers, who want more variety than a choice between cans of PBR and cans of Bud. So a liquor license application is pending, and the Streamline, in another abrupt break with 30 years of tradition, now offers a happy hour, with $1.50 Rainier tall boys and $2.75 microbrew pints (the lowest price for microbrews in Lower Queen Anne, Lewis says proudly).

So change is coming, but the basic song will remain the same. “The Streamline is dive-y in the most genuine sense. I don’t want to lose that,” Lewis explains. “We just want to make it a really good neighborhood bar.”

“Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name?” I ask him.

“Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your probation officer,” he laughingly replies.

Mike Seely at the Weekly, who recently authored a well received book on Seattle's dive bars, has more here