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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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New to the Area

Rick Bonino

The Area 51 Taphouse is expanding its territory.

Owners of the Onion Bar & Grill restaurants are taking the 51-tap alehouse concept they installed at the North Side location last fall and extending it to the original Onion downtown.

“It’s just been working so well up north, it should really work well downtown,” says co-owner Ken Belisle, who hopes to have the remodeled bar space open the week of Nov. 15.

“We’re kind of Spokane’s original beer and burgers place,” he says of the downtown Onion, which opened in 1978. “We’re just taking that up a notch.”

Like at the north Onion, the downtown Area 51 will have 45 rotating beer taps (up from the previous 12) plus barrel-aged wines, a gourmet root beer and two cask-conditioned cocktails: a spiced root bourbon recipe dating to 1886, and a mint julep from the 1889 world’s fair in Paris.

 It also will offer growler fills, a mug club and a special bar menu along with the regular food offerings.

One difference: Instead of a concrete bar (with a frost rail to keep drinks cool), like on the North Side, the downtown Onion will keep the big wooden bar that came from Chicago in 1910 to the former occupant of the block, the St. Regis Hotel.

“We’re taking that apart and refinishing it all,” Belisle says. “It’s a real labor of love – it’s like taking a Model A apart and putting it back together again. It’s going to be really special.”

The space also will be opened up, without the previous separation between the bar and dining areas.       

“There’s no reason today to have a bar and dining room that are separate,” says Belisle. “Being a taphouse is just more fun if you open it up a little.”

Exterior work on the project started over the summer with the installation of new awnings, window treatments and signage.   

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