Mike Lewis is best known to Seattleites as the man who penned the "Under the Needle" column for the now-defunct print version of the Seattle P-I. Lesser known was the fact that Lewis, who'd long dreamed of one day owning his own bar, tended bar once a week at the Streamline, a small, spartan Lower Queen Anne uber-dive. "I intended to do it for two months and ended up doing it for five years," says Lewis with a laugh.
Since losing his job at the P-I, Lewis has remained active in the journalistic realm, serving as an intern for the Tacoma NPR affiliate KPLU, as well as picking up freelance assignments from Seattle Business and Us Weekly. "Hopefully they'll start paying me for freelance soon," Lewis says of the unpaid radio gig. "I'd rather be working at a paper; that's still my primary goal. But in the back of my head, I thought if I ever wanted to own a bar, I'd better work in one for awhile."
Now Lewis works three nights per week (M, W, F) behind the Streamline's horseshoe bar ("more like a chain-link," insists Lewis). What's more, he, along with three other veterans of the Seattle spirits scene, have taken over the Streamline and will soon assume ownership (the tavern will formally change hands once licensing issues are cleared up). "The prior owner was in arrears with the landlord, so it was kind of a fire sale," explains Lewis of the quartet's acquisition.
Lewis' partners include: Lock & Keel owner John Herrmann, former College Inn owner Gary Kelfner (who, incidentally, is former SW editor/current Crosscut columnist Skip Berger's brother-in-law), and Blue Moon bartender Mary McIntyre, who is also Lewis' longtime girlfriend and whose tastefully nude (no nipples!) likeness adorns the sign of the historic U-District bar which currently employs her.
Even if she ultimately picks up a shift or two per week at the Streamline, McIntyre says she won't be leaving the Moon. ("It's such a good place to work," she says.) The new ownership group plans to screw as little as possible with the Streamline's interior, and would love to keep the tall, yellow sign on its exterior intact--if the state will let it.
Noting that the tavern (beer and wine-only) model is "not as successful as it used to be," Lewis, McIntyre & Co. are applying for a full spirits license. When this happens, the state liquor board requires that an establishment drop the "tavern" from its moniker and signage. Seeing as how "tavern's the main word on" the Streamline's sign, as McIntyre puts it, that will pose a bit of a challenge once higher-octane booze is made available.
Also challenging is the layout of the "chain-link" bar. "It's very difficult to get liquor and glasses and an ice machine [in that space]," concedes Lewis. "[But] I'm hoping we can keep the configuration; it may be the only one like it in town. It encourages conversation across the bar as well as with someone next to you."
Should he choose to monkey with the interior, Lewis reports that "we've had 30 people who've said, 'If you get rid of the dogs playing pool tapestry, I want it.'"