The road to Raymond is a winding one, wet asphalt in the autumn decorated with fallen leaves plastered the ground as log trucks and commuters ply their way north and south.
For years, the Artic Pub has stood along that route, a lighted window in the dark trees of the fast-falling winter evenings; a local bar, a roadside tavern, a place to stop in on a drive or to put your feet close to the fire after a day of hunting. After a fire gutted the interior almost exactly a year ago, the pub has redone and updated its interior, reopening its doors a few months again, said owner Lisa Loveday.
“We were doing really good. Food was picking up. The kitchen was doing great,” Loveday said of the pub. “Then the fire hit and we were done for seven months.”
The last few years have been unkind to the pub, with a shutdown of more than a year for the coronavirus, followed by an open period, and then another seven month shutdown to remodel after the fire, Loveday said. Now, the pub is getting back on its feet, as locals and new guests return to the pub.
“Customers have been coming back. The kitchen is busy all the time,” Loveday said. “Since we got approved for food four weeks ago, I’ve smoked five briskets.”
Loveday took over the business from previous owners Roy and Annie, opening as the Artic Pub in 2015, replacing the Artic Tavern in the same building. The building is more than a century old, Loveday said, built first as a post office in the 1800s. The bar has a decades-long legacy as a roadside stop, say guests who were there to see it through the years.
“I remember driving by here when I was a kid with my parents and the gas station was here,” said Jim Dilley, speaking of decades before. “I frequented this bar back when I was probably 21.”
Loveday said she wanted to see if she could make it work, taking over and starting the pub.
“I just decided I would give it a go. See if I could run a business,” Loveday said. “It was lots of long hours. I did it by myself for a long time.”
As business picked up, the 2020s have had their share of obstacles, first in the form of the pandemic, and then in the deliberately set fire that tore through the building last November.
A person or persons broke into the pub on the evening of Nov. 9 last year, deliberately setting a fire to cover their tracks, Loveday said. Neighbors noticed the flames, said Dilley, who lives nearby.
“(Brandon Belew) was out on his porch having a cigarette and heard the smoke alarm go off,” Dilley said in an interview. “He came and beat on my door. I got up, threw my pants on, threw my shoes on. It was a cold day.”
Dilley killed the propane feed before attacking the fire with a hose while firefighters were enroute, he said.
“I ran up here,” Dilley said. “I peeked in the window, and thought, I can fight this.”
The fire was extinguished before it tore completely through the building, but the damage was deep and thorough, Loveday said.
“The fire was so hot, I had to get new everything. It melted the cougar. She was toast. The bear barely survived,” Loveday said. “They stole my safe with money in it.”
Damage to the drywall, insulation and roof was compounded by the heat inside and the cold outside; warped nails lead to leaky roofing, allowing water inside, and the cold of the winter, no longer held at bay by insulation, got down into the plumbing, freezing lines and bursting pipes throughout the building.
“There was chain reactions all over. There was no insulation, no heat, no water,” Loveday said. “The roof started leaking all over. The plumbing froze so everything broke.”
Insurance is paying out, Loveday said, but the damages still exceeded $300,000.
With the interior all but gutted, Loveday said she had a long road ahead to replace what was damaged. Insulation, wiring, plumbing, the roof and the walls all needed to be replaced, or, in the case of things like the cedar wall boards, planed down and refurbished.
“These are the original boards. Cedar boards. One of the locals took them and planed them all. Lots of people pitched in to get stuff in,” Loveday said. “The contractors were awesome.”
The story is plain to see for those that know where to look; the old boards that didn’t require refurbishment are much darker, legacy of decades of smoking in the bar, while the planed-down wood is much lighter, contributing to a well-lit interior. Loveday said she took the opportunity to replace a lot of components like the heading and wiring system, including adding in security cameras.
“The biggest is the lighting. I updated the lighting,” Loveday said. “Tried to keep it as rustic as I could. I think I did a good job.”
Longtime bartender Jackie Duncan said it’s been grand to see Loveday execute her vision.
“It’s amazing. It’s absolutely amazing. I see of a lot her vision with the new place, but she kept the old too,” Duncan said in an interview. “She did it perfect.”
Back from the ashes
With a soft opening in June, the pub’s kitchen came online a few weeks ago, Loveday said.
“It was really nice. People were just driving by and seeing all the cars in the parking lot. It just built more and more and more,” Loveday said. “It’s been absolutely wonderful. Everyone’s been so glad to have their watering hole back.”
Duncan said it’s good to be able to host their regulars again.
“It’s been wonderful. They are so loyal and so happy. It really affected our locals. This is where they meet up. They talk about their fishing and their hunting and their winemaking. They’re all so close,” Duncan said. “It’s so beautiful in here. It’s a lot more cozy, I think, and welcoming. And, of course, secure.”
Dilley said he’s excited to be back, and pleased with the refit.
“I love it!” Dilley said. “It looks really good in here.”
From Artic itself and the nearby valleys, to Aberdeen and Raymond, to further afield, and even some international guests, the pub sees them all, Loveday said.
“The regulars and the locals are very happy to be back and have a gathering place,” Loveday said. “They come down for a run and have lunch or dinner. They go for a drive and come back home.”
Loveday said she’s focusing on retooling the food offerings, with the brisket being a newly popular menu item.
“I changed things up a little bit more. Created some sandwiches like the smoked beef brisket,” Loveday said. “I think we have a pretty good menu. The brisket dip and the brisket melt are a big seller.”
The Artic Pub is located a few miles south Cosmopolis or a few miles north of Raymond or a few miles west of Brooklyn or a few miles east of not a whole lot, depending on where you’re coming from. The bar opens at noon, and closes when they close, Loveday said, never earlier than 9 p.m.
“We’ve tried to make a comfortable atmosphere,” Loveday said. “It’s cozy.”