The Undertown to hibernate, emerge as full-service restaurant
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Dave Peterson, owner of The Undertown, pours a glass of wine on Monday, the last night the popular Port Townsend spot was open before closing down for several months.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT TOWNSEND — The Undertown, a popular coffee and wine bar below the downtown street level, closed New Year's Eve for up to four months.

It will open in the spring as a full-service restaurant, its owner said Monday.

“There are several things that really didn't get finished here,” said Dave Peterson, who opened the space in 2009.

“We want to upgrade things and turn it into a nicer bar.”

The Undertown is situated between Taylor and Tyler streets, accessible from an alley on one side and a stairway that comes up through the sidewalk on the other.

It consists of four “bays,” each about 1,000 square feet, that contain a coffee/wine bar, tables and meeting spaces that can be reconfigured to suit a particular function.

The underground aspect is a draw for the customers, Peterson said.

Peterson said the biggest change will be the installation of a full-service kitchen in which meals can be prepared on the premises.

Food served at the Undertown was required to be fixed off-site and brought in for heating.

The first month of the closure will be spent planning the type of kitchen that can be accommodated and the style of food that can be prepared, Peterson said.

Much of the interior will stay the same, with the brick and stone walls that provide its character remaining.

“For the month of January, we will be fine-tuning our concept, menu and overall vision,” Peterson said.

“Once this is established, we will move to the installation phase. We expect this will take three to four months, with the goal to be back in full-service operation by May 1.”

While the type of food is undetermined, Peterson has obtained a full liquor license and expects to expand the wine offerings.

“I have a real interest in wine, because drinking a unique wine is like visiting another place,” he said.

The Undertown has served as an exhibit space for local artists and a performance venue for area musicians.

“I'm not sure about the art, but the music will definitely continue when we reopen,” Peterson said.

Peterson, who has lived in Port Townsend for 20 years, has worked as the Port Townsend city engineer for 15 years.

He also played guitar in a local band but had to quit “because something had to give, between running the restaurant and the city.”

He started the Undertown because he always wanted to own his own business and wanted to have something to do after he retired from the city.

The biggest surprise after opening the business was the time required for paperwork and organization, he said.

“I wanted to open a place for the locals where they'd feel comfortable,” Peterson said.

“Any business in Port Townsend needs business from both the locals and the tourists. Neither one can support you on its own.”

The restaurant employs about 15 people, some of whom will return after the closure Peterson said.

The Undertown will be missed by the locals this winter.

“A lot of people come here to work on different projects, and it is a place where kids come to do their homework,” said Ru Kirk, a psychotherapist who said she is a regular customer.

“I hope they can hang on to that feeling after they reopen and don't turn into just another restaurant.”

Jesse Joshua Watson, who is an artist and a musician, has displayed art and performed in the space.

“It's a great location for a coffeeshop,” he said.

“The vibes are great, they are very personal,” Watson said. “I hope they will keep those vibes going.”

Peterson said he doesn't plan to change the winning formula.

“I like the feel of Port Townsend and the people here,” he said.

“And I like how a lot of people here who are over 65 still have a lot to contribute.”

Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at

Last modified: December 31. 2012 6:16PM
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