Howard Bok's ghost, the legendary spook of the College Inn Pub on University Way, won't have to move out or haunt anyone due to changes at the historic pub.
The College Inn Pub ownership quietly changed hands earlier this year, but owners Gary Kelfner and Jordan Kowalke intentionally sought owners committed to keeping the pub intact, complete with the legend of Howard the ghost.
"We're keeping it in the family," Kelfner said about the sale to two bartenders who have worked at the pub for years.
Kelfner, who was the pub's first manager in 1974, is staying on through this year to consult and ease the transition for the two new owners, Shea Wilson and Anders Lorenson. Lorenson has worked at the College Inn for more than six years, and Wilson for the past four-and-one-half.
Kelfner and Kowalke owned the pub for nine years before they put the bar on the market last June. While they had several interested buyers and offers during the past year, Kelfner said they were looking specifically for someone who would leave the pub as is.
In a neighborhood in which businesses change more than they stay the same, the sale of the pub to people they know is a relief to many regular customers who have been going to the English-style establishment for years since it opened 25 years ago.
Within the past 10 years, nearly every bar on the Ave. has changed hands or formats, or relocated. The only other bar on the Ave. that has not changed its location and/or format during the past 25 years since the College Inn opened is The Knarr Tavern, at 5633 University Way N.E., which started in 1935.
The Blue Moon Tavern, while not on the Ave., celebrated its 65th anniversary last week, making it the oldest tavern in the U-District.
Because the College Inn Pub building is now on the National Register of Historic Places, the building cannot be bought by the University and razed, Wilson said. The Pub itself, however, could be changed, as the business is not considered historic.
"I was wondering if they'd have someone come in and turn it into a different format," said Greg Rice, a regular College Inn Pub customer. He said he was happy the owners were searching for buyers who wouldn't make any changes.
"We bought it because we liked the place, and wanted to keep the familiar feel as well as keep it in the same hands," Wilson said. "I like to feel we're the University District's neighborhood bar - it's not a theme bar, it's the students' bar."
Ye College Inn building, at 4000 University Way N.E., was built in 1909, and opened for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition and World's Fair held on the UW campus. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992, and houses a bed-and-breakfast inn upstairs, a cafe and grocery on the main floor and the pub in the basement, complete with its fabled ghost.
The legend of Howard Bok says that he was a sailor who stopped in Seattle and stayed at the College Inn. He was murdered in the building many years ago, Wilson said, and his ghost inhabited the basement of the building well in advance of the Pub's business establishment there in 1974.
The myth surrounding Howard's ghost is that he abides in the Snug Room (the small back room of the pub) and his spirit can be felt especially strongly after hours. Howard has even been rumored to play the piano that sits in the Snug Room.
In honor of Howard's Ghost, the pub menu features Howard's Special, "a bagel dog with a pint o' Pabst," along with the regular pub fare. Why was the hot dog-in-a-bagel chosen in honor of Howard?
"It may just come back to haunt you," a cook said.
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