After 65 years in business as a popular hangout for thousands of Gonzaga University students, the Bulldog tavern will close at the end of the month.
The business owners hope to revive it somewhere else.
The landlord, Willard C. Quinn III, is selling the property to Mary Livingston, a Post Falls resident and former manager of the business.
That sale will displace the operators of the Bulldog, Trefry Enterprises, which has leased the building at Sharp and Hamilton for the past 15 years.
Trefry Enterprises, made up of four area partners, own the rights to the name The Bulldog, the official business title it took on, shedding “tavern.” That change occurred when it obtained a hard liquor license in 2005.
David Trefry, the lead partner in the group, said Quinn signed the lease with a plan to sell them the building at the end of the 15 years.
That lease ends Aug. 31. But in late 2010, Trefry said Quinn told him he no longer planned to sell the building.
After Trefry filed a lawsuit in Spokane County Superior Court, Quinn said he changed his mind and now was considering an offer by Livingston to buy the building. As required by the lease, Quinn gave Trefry and his three partners the option of matching that offer.
Quinn said Livingston is willing to pay $650,000 for the building. She has said she will reopen the building — minus all the equipment and fixtures — as a tavern with a different name. Livingston worked as a manager of the business before Trefry Enterprises took over 15 years ago.
But Trefry said he and his partners refuse to pay $650,000, which they say is more than double the appraised value. Trefry said two area banks appraised the building in the $300,000 range.
But Quinn maintains that $650,000 is a reasonable price. The nearby Geno’s Restaurant sold earlier this year for $325,000, he noted, and former GU basketball star John Stockton is building a six-store retail strip down the street where he will charge $25 per square foot to lease those retail spaces.
“As of Aug. 31, we’re gone,” Trefry said. All the fixtures from the business — two pool tables, a bar, tables and the outdoor Bulldog sign — will be hauled away, he said.
Trefry said he and his partners will look around to find another location in the Gonzaga area.
Quinn said his parents became owners of the Bulldog building in 1973. He said he worked for his parents while attending GU grad school in 1975 and 1976. Trefry Enterprises purchased the business name from his parents in 1996.
The Bulldog Tavern dates to the 1940s and became the unofficial home of the Kennel Club, the rabid student fan club of the Zags.
Trefry, 53, is an attorney and works as a deputy prosecutor preparing appellate briefs for a number of Eastern Washington counties.
Said Trefry: “I worked my way through GU law school by working as a bartender at the Bulldog.”
He added, “We’ve had generations come through the place. We’ve had grandparents who used to come here, and now they bring in their drinking-age children to the Bulldog.”