Seattle’s historic College Inn Pub reopens with new energy & focus



Located in the heart of the University District, Seattle’s College Inn Pub served the community for decades before closing 17 months ago. Not just a temporary shutdown, but a permanent closure that saddened many beer-loving folks who remember College Inn Pub as one of the first places in the city to feature craft beer back before craft beer was a thing. A new group of owners recently reopened the revitalized pub.

For roughly 50 years it was beloved by the community. The pub has witnessed generations of matriculation and graduation, serving beer to a constant but ever-evolving stream of UW grad students and faculty, as well as non-collegiate neighborhood regulars. But College Inn Pub was showing its age. That’s understandable, especially since the building was built more than a century ago and is on the National Register of Historic Places. (The corner of University Way and 40th. Near Big Time Brewing.)

Photos from the pub’s website.

Recently, the storied pub reopened under new ownership. New energy as well as new plumbing. An even-greater focus on local craft beer as well as a new kitchen. The old place got spruced up but remains the same at its core. Facelifted but familiar. Not really facelifted, though. Because it is recognized as an official historic building, the outside must maintain its original appearance, so the upgrades and changes are internal.


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Among the new owners, local beer lovers might recognize the name Seth Howard, who also owns Collins Pub and Last Drop Bottleshop. Here is a press release about the reopening.

HISTORIC COLLEGE INN PUB REOPENED BY NEW OWNERS AFTER 16 MONTH CLOSURE

The beloved U District bar is back to serving great beer and food after almost shuttering permanently in 2020.

SEATTLE, WA, August 18, 2021— The infamous College Inn Pub reopened its doors on July 15 after a 16-month hiatus. The pub has served as an important watering hole and gathering place for UW faculty, staff, grad students, and U District community members since the early 1970s (or maybe the late 60s? No one can really remember).


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When the former owners announced they had closed the College Inn Pub permanently during summer 2020, longtime friends and 30+ year pub regulars Seth Howard (owner of The Collins Pub, Last Drop Bottle Shop), Al Donohue, and Jen Gonyer leapt at the chance to lease the vacant space and save the pub from an uncertain future.

With a strategy of retaining the heritage and original feel of the pub, the team spent 10 months giving the space a much needed deep clean and updating systems and fixtures, including modernized electrical and plumbing, functional kitchen and bar equipment, and the woodwork refinished.

“Regulars keep asking why it seems so much brighter down here,” Gonyer said. “The lights aren’t any brighter than before, but the walls are no longer orange.”

The new owners took great pains to restore and revitalize the physical space and systems while maintaining the historical character of the pub. Construction has begun on a large outdoor deck just outside the pub’s front door.

“We are thrilled to be able to offer open air seating soon, which seems more important than ever in this pandemic,” added Howard.

The food and beverage menu has been gently updated; while keeping popular classics like nachos and grinders, guests can also enjoy new items like the house made meatball grinders and pizza bread with house made marinara.

“The only menu item that has not returned is the bagel dog – partly due to sourcing issues and partly due to our desire to take the microwave out of the kitchen and shove it in a closet. No microwaved food anymore,” said Howard.

A new “even-more-local” craft beer list includes great drafts from breweries like Cloudburst, Ravenna, and Maritime – and yes, you can still get a PBR. In addition, the pub offers a full menu of innovative and classic cocktails and quite a few good non-alcoholic choices (such as Rachel’s Ginger Beer and fresh squeezed lemonade).

“We look forward to welcoming everyone in the neighborhood and UW community back for a pint and nachos,” said Donohue.

The College Inn Pub has risen from the COVID ashes, but still remains in the basement.

The College Inn Pub is located at 4006 University Way NE, Seattle, in the basement of the historic College Inn building, a Tudor Revival-style building erected for the 1909 Alaska Yukon Pacific Exhibition that was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.



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