Last month, Eater reported that after two decades, Burke Shethar's Madrona Eatery and Ale House would be shuttering. Now it turns out that Peter Johnson is the new lessee of the space, recently renamed Madrona Arms and slotted to open next month. The Irish-born Johnson has long had his eye on the spot, almost since he took his first job in Seattle at a tavern called Hank's (today the Attic) in Madison Park. When Shethar's lease ended, Johnson stepped up.
Born in Belfast, Johnson grew up in the restaurant business, washing glasses in the shipyard pubs at the age of 15. Eventually he found his way to the USA and after settling in Seattle, he and his wife, Adrianna, launched a number of taverns: the Finn McCool's in the U District, the Chieftain opposite Seattle University on Capitol Hill, and McGilvra's at the foot of Madison.
Eater caught up with Johnson as he and his 14-year-old son, Michael, were ankle-deep into the refurbishing of the Madrona space. Father and son had toured London earlier this year, scouting out the typical neighborhood pubs they'd find at every Underground exit. "That's what we want here in Madrona," Johnson said. "A comfortable local."
He's going to install warm woodwork (floors, booths, back bar) throughout the 2,800-square-foot space, with seating for about 90. Flat-screens to watch sports (but "it's not a sports bar"). A full cocktail bar plus craft beers. A menu that goes beyond standard pub fare (soups, burgers, specials.) Early plans call for a late-afternoon happy hour plus dinner, with a late-night happy hour as well.
A temporary liquor license was issued this week. Now all that's left is, well, almost everything else. Chef, bartender, staff hiring and training. By the end of September, all should be ready.
"I want to make sure that everyone remembers to say 'thank you' to every guest," Johnson says. "Hello is nice, but good-bye and thank you is even more important."