The text on the back of a shirt bearing the logo of the newly opened Defiant Goldfish reads “Defiant of time, the Goldfish lives on.” While the slogan could be in reference to the drawn-out process of opening — an effort that ended in July when the bar’s doors opened to an expectant neighborhood crowd — it was meant to pay homage to the pub’s past.
Beginning as a gas station in 1929, this iconic location opened as the Goldfish Tavern in 1933 just at the end of prohibition and operated continuously until it closed in 2012, drawing in a loyal group of regulars from the Ruston and North End neighborhoods.
The building sat vacant until the summer of 2014 when two self-described “woefully optimistic dreamers” took on the project of resurrecting this historic neighborhood gathering place. Both of these dreamers are South Sound natives, so the idea of revitalizing a Tacoma institution had a lot of appeal. And with many years of food service experience between the duo, a bar and grill was a no brainer.
Adam Dopps cut his managerial teeth at the Milton Tavern in the 90s and had since managed various pubs, alehouses, and pizza parlors. Most recently he had been working as a franchise business consultant in Arizona, before moving back to Tacoma and setting his sights on the empty Goldfish building. A long time friend of Adam, Corey Webb, also had worked management at a number of food venues around western Washington, most recently as Director of Operations at Jet City Pizza. Now Corey is in charge of the pizza and all back of house duties at the Goldfish, while Adam takes care of the beer list and front of house operations.
The prolonged process of getting the bar up and running has been well documented and talked about around town, and while the owners are happy to tell the tale of their travails (have you heard about how Adam got set on fire?), they are even happier to put that past behind them so they can focus on what reall matters: serving great food and beer.
What they will never forget, though, is all the support that allowed them to get to opening day. Adam and Corey are profuse in their gratitude for the community, namely “The 325”—those original Kickstarter funders who offered their moral and financial support from the beginning and through the many trials and tribulations of the whole process.
The Defiant Goldfish now opens at 7:00 a.m. every morning, serving coffee, espresso and an assortment of delicious morning goodies. The lunch and dinner menu features a variety of sandwiches, salads, bruschetta, and their signature hand tossed pizza, while their “Tacoma Area Tap List” features nine rotating beers from Tacoma’s best breweries.
“We never carry the same beer two kegs in a row,” Adam says proudly, then laughs at how much work it is to keep changing the chalkboard.
He and Corey have been overjoyed by the positive response they have received since opening, which they attribute largely in part to the team they have assembled.
“We have an unbelievably friendly team,” says Adam. For him, that was the most important attribute when he and Corey were interviewing applicants. “I can teach our people how to be a good server or bartender, but I can’t teach them how to be awesome people.”
Now those awesome people can be found serving up three meals a day, every day, to the families, friends, and park-going passersby that are stopping in to see the new form the old Goldfish has taken. Unlike its predecessor, the Defiant Goldfish is a very open space, with eclectic patio seating that is popular with parents with small children, and a long bar that allows patrons to chat with the cooks while they work. That element of neighborhood sociability is exactly what the Goldfish guys were hoping to create.
“It is fun being able to sit down for a minute with folks that walked by and waved for the two years we were under construction, and get to know their stories,” Adam says. “Everyone has a story about their connection to The Goldfish.”
While the number one priority is to pay back everyone who supported them along the way, Adam and Corey are excited to get to work on the next phase of plans, including a renovated patio and planters and benches for optimal park enjoyment — as well as a second location. Yes, plans are already in the works for another Defiant Goldfish in the Hilltop area, but it’s really not that surprising. You know that the two “woefully optimistic dreamers” who made the rebirth of Goldfish possible are bound to have plenty more dreams brewing.