Underground cafe won't reopen in Port Townsend, owner says
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
The doors to The Undertown will remain closed, says owner Dave Peterson, who opened the cafe and bar in 2009. "It was a great run," he said.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT TOWNSEND — The Undertown, literally an underground restaurant that evolved into a quasi-community center during its three-year lifespan, will not reopen as planned.

“It was a great run,” said Dave Peterson, who opened The Undertown in 2009.

“But there were other things that needed my energy and required my attention.”

Peterson, who owns the adjacent Terry Building, plans to open a new restaurant facing Washington Street.

Peterson closed The Undertown, below street level at 211 Taylor St., in January with the intention of reopening in May as a refurbished eatery.

But he decided a few weeks ago to channel his efforts into the building he owns, he said.

He rented the Undertown space in the basement of the Mount Baker Block Building, which consisted of four large rooms adding up to about 4,000 square feet.

It had a restaurant/coffee bar in the main section, while the other three were opened and closed to accommodate different functions.

Although its customers have already trickled over to other businesses in the neighborhood, it provided a unique combination, according to many local residents.

It was the only downtown restaurant that stayed open from early to late, drawing people in for coffee in the morning, and drinks and live music at night.

In between, some people would sit there for hours, either for business or recreation.

“It was a great spot,” said Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce President Dominick Svornich, who recently opened The Cellar Door, another subterranean space.

“It filled a niche. It was a community meeting place where kids could do their homework or could just meet.

“You could have a knitting group or a book club.”

Svornich said he expects the slack to be taken up by other local coffeehouses and restaurants, although none of them has suitable meeting space.

Peterson said he has not determined any details for the new restaurant, such as cuisine or format, but he has notified the current tenants that they must vacate by May.

The Upstage Restaurant and Bistro also is located in the building. Peterson said that whatever opens will not intentionally draw business away from the established club.

“It won't compete,” Peterson said.

“Mark [Cole, Upstage owner] and I are working together to decide what goes in there.”

Mount Baker Block Building Manager Richard Probst said that about a month's work will be required to get the Undertown's space ready for new tenants.

Probst said the four sections could be leased individually or together.

On the Taylor Street side, all four spaces are accessible through an below-sidewalk tunnel, where the entrance resembles access to a subway station.

There also is an outside door on the Tyler Street side for what was the Undertown's main section.

Peterson's new restaurant will displace two Washington Street businesses, the Bazaar Girls yarn store and the Candle Store,.

Both are required to vacate by the end of May.

Bazaar Girls co-owner Kerri Hartman said she is “excited” about moving to a new location with better foot traffic and that the business was already looking to expand.

Ruthy Marlow, who has run the Candle Shop for 11 years, is less eager for the change.

“Right now, I have no place to go,” she said.

“I've had 11 years of success here, and I'm not sure where I'll end up.”

Both business owners said they would consider moving into the former Undertown space, though Hartman said, “It's not my first choice.”

Artist Jesse Joshua Watson exhibited his paintings in The Undertown and also performed there as part of a band.

“It was a great spot to bring visitors,” Watson said.

“It was unique and had a good vibe.

“They need to do something with that space,” he said. ““It's too good not to be used.”

Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 18. 2013 6:17PM
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