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A great deal: Yuppie Pawn Shop in Kirkland is now a tavern, too
It’s a well-known fact to most bartenders: People drink in a good economy and people drink in a bad economy.
So went the thinking of Brain Lurie, co-owner of The Yuppie Pawn Shop.
About a year ago, Lurie and his business partner, Karen Moskowitz, transformed about a third of their existing pawnshop into a tavern, serving 50 different types of beer, an assortment of hard alcohol and food.
In the 20 years since The Yuppie Pawn Shop has been open, first in a downtown Kirkland location and now in its current home in the Totem Lake Neighborhood, it has accumulated a host of regulars.
“I often kind of compare the pawn shop to ‘Cheers’ — we’ve got our psychologist, our postman,” said Lurie, of the visitors who frequent the store. So it seemed a natural to Lurie to add a “Yuppie Tavern,” where customers could sit and gab over a mug of suds and a bowl of peanuts. “While they’re telling us their wealth of information, we can sell them a beer, too. So that really works out well.”
Sure enough, in the span of about an hour on a recent afternoon, about 15 customers streamed in and out of the store. Some, clearly new to the shop, browsed through a large and varied inventory, finding everything from a 1975 Rolls Royce in the parking lot — selling for $9,900 – to snowboarding gear, a soft-pretzel machine and collections of arrowheads encased in glass.
Others, once they were greeted warmly by Lurie and Moskowitz on the pawn side of the building, strolled over to the tavern side and pulled up a barstool.
“Yes, we do have our regulars,” said Moskowitz, who pulls double duty working both the bar and pawn side of the business.
Lurie, who calls himself a “kinder, gentler” lender, said he is often willing to extend time arrangements on loans and negotiate deals.
Customers can “get really good deals because they spend money on two sides,” Lurie said. “They can drink up (and then) pawn jewelry to get more drinks.” He said every day he has customers who drink and buy, buy and drink.
“I’ve bought a couple of things from the other side,” said Jim Walters, a regular. “It’s kind of a unique little bar. You can get hammered and go shopping,” he said, while visiting with friends who he introduced as Captain Ron and Charlie Tuna.
But shopping isn’t the only entertainment to be found in the Old-West themed tavern. Large-screen televisions, usually airing sports, share wall space with artwork that is for sale. Electronic darts can be played on one side of the bar, while on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights live music is offered. On Tuesday evenings the tavern hosts a blues open mic night.
Lurie credits Moskowitz and the tavern staff with making the bar work.
“The women don’t let me work in the bar because I’m too stupid,” he said, explaining with a laugh that he tends to over-pour and forgets to charge. Instead, he said, he is the idea guy.
Lurie’s latest brainstorm has him running all over town in search of a food truck to station in the large parking lot outside of the building. He has already started working on a menu of comfort food to supplement the sandwiches that the tavern currently offers, and looks forward to offering food and drink specials.
“If we build it, they will come,” he said confidently of what his customers call a “hidden jewel” of a business.
The Yuppie Pawn is open Monday-Friday, 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. and on Saturdays 10 a.m-4 p.m. The Tavern is open daily from 11 a.m.
For a schedule of live music, visit: yuppietavern.com/index.html
Amy Smith is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.