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Opinion >  Column

Doug Clark: Mootsy’s takes 57th spot in Pabst Blue Ribbon sales

As an Ingrown Empire lifer, I learned to accept the more modest achievements that come Spokane’s way.

Seattle, for example, has a groovy Space Needle.

We have a brick Clocktower.

Yay!

So in that spirit, I would like you all to stand tall right now and repeat enthusiastically after me …

“We’re 57!”

“WE’RE FIFTY-SEVEN!!”

I know. Unless you’re a Chevy or a member of the Heinz clan, the number 57 won’t register as anything very special.

Well, that’s all changed for Spokane thanks to a package that arrived last week at Mootsy’s, the iconic downtown bar with the yellow front door at 406 W. Sprague Ave.

The package contained a handsome metal plaque suitable for prominent display. It signified that this small watering hole was the nation’s 57th-best last year when it came to selling the beer that practically everybody’s grandfather used to drink – Pabst Blue Ribbon.

It’s true. Anthony Armato of Pabst confirmed Mootsy’s foaming achievement, adding that the Highlands Grill of Kennesaw, Georgia, took 56th place by a slight “case equivalency” margin, whatever that means.

First place, for those keeping score at home, was the Peacock Tavern of Corvallis, Oregon.

Weird. I always pick Wazzu’s Fraternity Row when it comes to topping any national list for beer consumption.

But getting back to Mootsy’s, being 57th is no bowl of salted peanuts.

Ponder for a moment, if you will, the American love affair with beer. Now consider the vast number of saloons we have.

And that’s just in Hillyard.

There must be a million more at least when you factor in heavy-drinking places like Detroit, Chicago and Moses Lake.

The point is that we shouldn’t underestimate this award.

“Spokane – Near Nature/Near Pilsner” could be our new civic motto.

I’m sure Daniel Sanchez would go for that.

Sanchez, 34, bought Mootsy’s eight years ago. His biggest move (and he’ll be the first to admit it) is that he wisely stayed out of the way, doing little to mess with the bar’s already successful and eclectic vibe.

“Sometimes I come in here and sit in a corner and watch the magic happen,” Sanchez said. “You can’t just manufacture what we do here.”

Mootsy’s has been a unique destination ever since Rick Turner, the original owner, opened the doors.

That was about 19 years ago. The bar quickly became known as a cool venue for original bands, edgy art and weekly poetry slams.

A lot of taverns have karaoke and trivia nights.

Mootsy’s has Monday night spelling bees.

A lot of taverns make money on fancy boutique brews.

Mootsy’s sells PBR by the aquifer.

Why?

No highbrow suds, Pabst is still drinkable, fairly cheap and for years has been considered chic by rockers, hipsters and drinkers on a budget.

As an added wrinkle, however, Pabst was reportedly sold this fall to a Russian company. What this will do to the beer’s image remains to be seen.

I met Sanchez Wednesday morning at Mootsy’s and took an immediate liking to this young entrepreneur.

The son of a coal miner, Sanchez is an intense guy who from an early age wrote down his “long- and short-term goals” and thought about one day becoming his own boss.

He opened a pressure washing business while attending college at Western Washington University and, later, a Pita Pit in Indiana. Absorbing the basics of business, Sanchez eventually migrated to Spokane, where he became the proud owner of Mootsy’s.

“I can’t define momentum for you,” he told me. “But you know when you have it and you know when it’s gone.”

Sanchez could be the least arrogant business owner I’ve ever encountered.

Mootsy’s momentum, he said, comes from its sense of community and the quality of employees like Dan Kvamme, Eryn Johnson, Erin Fasbender, Brian Mayfield and Mark Miller.

“Very little has anything to do with me,” Sanchez added. “There was something special here long before I showed up.”

With an attitude like that, I predict we’ll be hollering “We’re 56!” in no time at all.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or dougc@spokesman.com.

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