It’s been some time since I made a pilgrimage to the greatest bar in the Northwest, Bob’s “World-Famous” Java Jive. The Java Jive is a bar in a building shaped like a coffee pot. I was told, while on a visit there in the company of Alan and Charlie of thee Sun City Girls and the fabulous Chuck Swaim, that the building was intended as a speakeasy, but that prohibition ended before the building opened.

The ever-lovin’ Roadside America has this lovely page full of roadside coffee-pot buildngs, including a lovely full-color view of Bob’s Java Jive!

Lately, the denizens of the south Sound region have been able to partake of occasional punk-rock shows there, which is truly an inspiring prospect. Add to that the fact that this wonder of modern architecture serves Pabst, had a resident troop of monkeys, and played host to the Ventures back in the first salad days of Northwest rock, and you’re talking something special.

Multiply these facts by the song “South Tacoma Way”Thrice All-American” by Neko Case, which ends with this stanza:

God bless California
Make way for the Wal-Mart
I hope they don’t find you

and when you realize that South Tacoma Way is the street that Bob’s Java Jive is on, you’ll be looking into bus fare.

Oh, by the way? The monkeys?

They really exist, although I don’t know if they remain there. One got out during the visit mentioned above, and the elderly proprietress chased it around the bar with a broom, yelling at it by name: “Billy, you get back in the closet! Git! Go on now!”.


7 thoughts on “BOB'S JAVA JIVE

  1. Bob’s Java Jive was the perfect getaway for PLU students about 20 years ago.

    The coffee shaped building was cool. Cozy, but not to cramped. I remember a circular type bar- and patrons enjoying coffee – mostly truckers. While in good shape, the place felt a bit like a dive and had a “dive-like” aroma.

    Then, the monkeys were kept in the back area (a building addition that likely was added on to the coffee shaped building at some point). We called this back room “the plastic jungle”. It featured vinyl tiger print booths, a dance floor made of black vinyl tiles (with an occaisional red or blue tile), random flourescent jungle paintings on the wall ( illuminated by a couple black light bulbs). There were hanging plastic monkey head lights too.

    You could get food there, and beer by the pitcher. It was diner food and wasn’t too bad if you didn’t try to imagine what the kitchen looked like. Our waitress served up our hamburger and fries, then kept stealing one or two everytime she walked by. At one point she sat down with us and was cracking up for no apparent reason. Then we realized she was drunk!

    The juke box was one of the greatest attractions there. Where else could you find “Love Potion #9” or “theme from Hawaii 5-O”. Of course we always had to play “Java Jive” (I think it was by the Ink Spots).

    After a while the live music started. The “band” consisted of two men (rumored to be the sons of the owners). One (looked kind of like Steve Buscemi) played accordion, and the other (a large man with a huge, curly afro and big glasses) played organ. Very serious. They mostly played TV theme songs. One time, they played the theme to Gilligan’s Island. When it was over, a group of us laughed. The brothers glared at us, as if annoyed by our irreverance.

    After five or six TV tunes, they’d take a break. The organ player would spin around on his bench, and sit with his elbow on his knee, chin in his hand, silent, no expression on his face… for five minutes straight while the accordian player had a beer.

    Bizzare! But it was great! I thank God I never got food poisioning.

  2. Just wondering about the Java Jive. I knew Bob, went to high school and college with him. He was somewhat of a savant and I wondered if he was still alive. He didn’t show for our reunion and I heard he died. Just wondering.

  3. Oops!

    That ain’t “South Tacoma Way”, although that’s the right street, and which is a damn fine song; the actual song I cite above is “Thrice All American”.

  4. Check out the Seamonkees at The Java Jive at 9:00 PM on Saturday May 3rd. The Seamonkees are one of Seattle’s newest hot surf rock bands. The show will be filmed by a professional televion crew for a show to promote the City of University Place Festival of Fun scheduled for this summer.

    Be there or be ……….

  5. Just wanted to weigh in quickly and say that the Java Jive is my favorite dive bar west of the Cascades. Spent a lot of time in there whilst living in Tacoma and was always treated like a friend. The food was good, prices were right, crowd was quirky and eclectic, and all were welcome. It remains, arguably, the perennial favorite bar from all of my travels thus far, an honor that is likely to last for quite some time. -Chuck

  6. Almost forgot–the Java Jive shows old hygene films from the late ’30’s through the ’70s on an old projector near the restrooms (labeled “Tarzan” and “Jane”-of course). After a couple of pitchers of Pabst Blue Ribbon they are a proverbial hoot! Some of you may actually remember some of these from grade school-as do most of the crowd, but it’s not like anybody will admit it. That, and when’s the last time you ever heard anybody do Monte Python’s “Every Sperm Is Sacred” on karoke night? Even if you’re living in New York, it’s worth the drive to Tacoma just to check out. -Chuck

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