Denise McKenzie, left, Tanya Buttke and Gloria Phillips at Kuhnle’s Tavern on June 17, 2024 in Marysville. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Denise McKenzie, left, Tanya Buttke and Gloria Phillips at Kuhnle’s Tavern on June 17, 2024 in Marysville. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

After 106 years, Kuhnle’s Tavern in Marysville is closing

Come say farewell Sunday from noon to midnight at the historic bar with five beers on tap and a 50-cent pay phone.

MARYSVILLE — After 106 years, Sunday is last call at Kuhnle’s Tavern.

Come cry in your beer from noon until midnight.

In this city steeped in traditions, the grand finale was planned to coincide on the last day of the city’s Strawberry Festival that’s been going on for a mere 92 years.

A beer garden starts Friday afternoon behind the bar at 204 State Ave. The Seafair Pirates will be there Saturday after the festival’s parade, as will the bagpipers.

Sunday will be a marathon of hugs, tears and tales at the cash-only bar with two pool tables, five beers on tap, numerous trophies and a 50-cent pay phone.

Denise McKenzie, a bartender at Kuhnle’s Tavern for many years, works behind the bar on June 17, 2024 in Marysville. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Denise McKenzie, a bartender at Kuhnle’s Tavern for many years, works behind the bar on June 17, 2024 in Marysville. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Owners Tanya Buttke, 63, and Gloria Phillips, 79, are retiring.

“I’ve been here since 1989. Gloria has been here since 1976. Kuhnle’s since 1918,” Buttke said.

The bartenders bought the business in 2011 from JoAnn “Momma Jo” Kuhnle, who ran the bar for decades with her husband, Kay, after he bought it from his parents. He died in 2006.

“We wanted Kuhnle’s Tavern to stay alive,” Buttke said.

A photo of “Momma Jo,” who passed away in 2019, hangs on the wall behind the desk in Buttke’s so-called “office,” a small desk at the end of the bar.

“It has been a tough four years since COVID,” Buttke said.

She is moving back home to Montana after 36 years in Marysville, where she’d never planned to stay this long.

“I probably have plenty of stories to tell if I can remember,” Buttke said. “We get a good class of people here, for the most part.”

You might remember her dancing on the bar with glittery pompoms at the 100th anniversary party in 2018. It wasn’t the last time.

The bar’s fate is undetermined. There have been interested parties.

“Probably at some time it will reopen, but how or when or who I have no idea,” Buttke said.

The final men’s pool tournament with 20 contestants was Tuesday and the women’s meet is Thursday.

“Which is the way it has been forever,” Buttke said.

For about a decade, a group of retired guys have gathered every morning for coffee at 8 a.m. “We’ve lost a few,” Buttke said.

The tavern hosted potlucks, sponsored softball teams and fostered human connections, platonic and otherwise.

“I met my wife here,” patron Mike Barnes said. “She was playing pool. We had the same friends hanging out here playing pool.”

He and Donna have been married 27 years.

Barnes sat at the bar, enjoying a glass of wine at 1 p.m. on a recent “Wine-O-Wednesday,” the daily special.

“It’s 5 o’clock somewhere” is the adage here.

Ross Eddy, 79, calls himself a “10 to nooner.”

“I start off with coffee at home and as soon as I come in they hand me a beer,” Eddy said. “Normally there’s one or two of my dearest and oldest friends. We sit down and B.S. and watch game shows together.”

On a recent day, he was finishing a Bud Light with two buds.

“I don’t know where the hell I’m going to go when they shut the door on me,” Eddy said. “I’ll still be parked in the parking lot hoping the back door is going to get unlocked so I can get back in.”

Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @reporterbrown.

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