Port Angeles roadhouse to reopen next week as Dam Bar with new owner, music schedule
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Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Elda Brandt, new co-owner of The Dam Bar, formerly the Junction Roadhouse, wants to transform the former tavern in Port Angeles into a brand-new establishment.

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Live music is not dead at the well-known bar straddling the junction of state Highway 112 and U.S. Highway 101, though it might be heard less often than it once was, according to the bar's new co-owner.

“We are going to continue [music]. We won't have music as often as we had,” said Elda Brandt, who had worked as a bartender at the Junction Roadhouse before she bought it with her daughter, Jennifer Landon.

Brandt said she expects to reopen the bar, renamed The Dam Bar to recall the massive Elwha and Glines Canyon dams that once stood on the Elwha River, next week.

The bar has been closed since Sunday while the interior is cleaned and repainted and minor fixes are made to the building's plumbing system, Brandt added.

Fred Schoeffel, former owner of the venue at 242701 U.S. Highway 101 about 1 miles west of the city limit, said he had owned the bar for five or six years and had decided it was time to enjoy retirement with his wife.

“I'm 66, and I don't need the extra financial burden or stress of running a business,” Schoeffel said.

The Junction Roadhouse hosted live music several times a week.

Brandt, who took ownership of the bar Monday, said she wants to see how much money it brings in her first few weeks of ownership before deciding how often she'll bring in bands.

“I'm going to shoot for every other weekend,” Brandt said.

“I've got to get the cash register ringing a little bit.”

Brandt said she's planning to include more country/rock bands on the bar's music schedule, in addition to the mostly blues groups she said were typically featured.

“That's probably going to be the biggest change is the music,” Brandt said.

Local North Olympic Peninsula bands also will be more of a focus, Brandt said, adding that she doesn't plan to bring in as many Seattle-area groups as had historically played at the bar.

Short of the name change and interior tweaks — such as removing 40 years of signs, nails and staples from the wood-paneled walls — Brandt said she hopes the bar's regulars will find the same welcoming place they've come to know well over the years.

“I want them to be comfortable out here, no matter what the name is,” Brandt said.

A grand opening is set for June 1, she said, after she's done helping plan her daughter's wedding.

Brandt, a Forks native who has lived in Port Angeles since 1988, learned Schoeffel wanted to sell the business while she was working at the bar earlier this year.

“He knew that I was interested and felt that I could do a good job at it,” Brandt said.

Schoeffel said former bar manager Marie McKean had run the day-to-day operations since she started 18 months ago.

“[McKean] deserves a pat on the back,” Schoeffel said.

To save on operating costs, Brandt said she did not keep the bar's staff on and will run the place for the near future with her husband, Jim; her daughter; and Joe Creil, her daughter's fiancee.

“Right now, as long as we can pay the bills, we're happy,” Brandt said.

“We know we're not going to get rich here.”

McKean said Friday she has had a blast getting to know the bar's regulars over the past 18 months, describing them as a “family” made up of such disparate members as doctors, loggers, lawyers and fishermen.

McKean said she wished nothing but the best for the bar's new owners.

“It's gone through a lot of changes in its time, and I hope this is a positive one,” she said.

“We wish them every success.”

McKean said she hopes the bar will continue to be the “hub of entertainment” it's been since 1978, when it first opened.

“Live music is a dying breed, and it's so important,” she said.

The Junction attracted well-known blues bands and singers from all over the state and country, McKean said, including some from as far away as Chicago.

“We had amazing music,” she said.

During her 18 months as manager, McKean said, she booked bands four or five nights per week.

Mike Pace, singer and guitarist for Port Angeles bands the Soulshakers and the Hayshakers, has played there for about 13 years, generally once or twice per month with one or the other of his bands.

The bar's unique atmosphere is the main reason he keeps coming back and likely why it has attracted such a loyal following, he said.

“It's a true roadhouse type of atmosphere,” Pace said.

“It's not fancy. It's just happening.”

John Nelson, who has written the Peninsula Daily News' “Live Music” column for 12 years, said the atmosphere attracted the attention of a national beer brand in 2010.

“Coors Light filmed a beer commercial there just because of the ambiance of it,” he said.

“It was just an iconic place that has just endured in our local live music culture.”

So far, Brandt said, the bar's regulars and others she has talked to have said they're looking forward to the bar reopening.

“Everybody that sees me downtown [asks], 'When are you opening?'” Brandt said.

“They're all excited for us.”

Brandt said she'll be open to comments from regulars on how she is running the bar, including input on changes she plans to make concerning live music.

“I want customers, if they have any ideas or suggestions, I really want to hear from them,” Brandt said.

“It's their bar.”

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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: April 23. 2014 6:43PM
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