Latona Pub—which celebrates its 30th anniversary this August—is a space of quiet contradictions. A neighborhood pub that’s also an epicenter for local craft beer. A bar that’s hardly changed its décor or approach since it opened, yet remains fresh and welcoming. A hub both for twentysomethings and baby boomers.
Originally the space on 65th and Latona Ave—where Wallingford gives way to Green Lake—was home to Latona Tavern, a divey place with boarded up windows that opened in 1933 after the repeal of prohibition. But in 1987 Robert Brenlin (with a few silent partners) bought the place and gutted it: they lofted the ceiling to its current airy heights and put in the walls of windows that make the wood covered room glow when the sun hits. After a few years, the bar started hosting live music—including jazz, which they still do for Friday happy hour—and then added thoughtful bar food (no deep-fryer!) a few years later.
But from the beginning Latona focused on quality craft beer in a way that’s set a blueprint for the city—a good brew is a product of community, something to treat with care. If you probe the place’s significance, stories quickly pile up. How Redhook used to deliver kegs to the bar in a VW bug. How Latona along with its sister pubs (Hopvine on Capitol Hill and Fiddler's Inn in Wedgewood) used to buy ten percent of Big Time's production. How in 2003 it was the first place to pour a little upstart’s first beer: the now ubiquitous Manny’s by Georgetown. And how in 2009 Latona poured the first pints of Fremont's Universal Pale Ale.
It’s easy for a place like this rest on its laurels and thus fall by the wayside, but for evidence of Latona’s persistent relevance look no further than the breweries it’s collaborated with for anniversary beers with this year: Cloudburst, Three Magnets, Flying Bike, Naked City, Anacortes Brewing, Holy Mountain, Reuben’s, and Stoup.
From August 14 through 19, Latona Pub is celebrating its anniversary week. Each night will host a different event. A Legacy Brewer’s Night on August 15 celebrates some places that Latona has been serving since the beginning: Maritime, Hale's Ales, Pike, and Big Time. August 17 sees a Cask Beer night (the bar was one of the first to in the area to run beers on cask). And finally an anniversary celebration on August 19 with bluegrass and special releases from Georgetown, Schooner Exact, Fremont, and Wander Brewing.
So Latona, take a bow. Your atmosphere is still as eclectic—a full suit of armor over the kitchen, Picasso-esque paintings over the piano, the Clash giving way to “St. James’ Infirmary” on the stereo—as your customers: fiftysomething couples on date night, beer geeks with spiked leather bracelets perched at the bar, young friends rehashing their work weeks. You’re a place that—in a very Seattle way—knows that to do your own thing, honestly, peripherally, is the best way to stay at the center of things.