Member Spotlight: Tacoma’s Elks Temple gets a new lease on life thanks to McMenamins

Member Spotlight: Tacoma’s Elks Temple gets a new lease on life thanks to McMenamins

By Paul Schlienz


You’ve never seen anything quite like McMenamins’ Elks Temple.

It’s a hotel, a shopping mall, a brewery, a tasting room and bottle shop, several bars and a concert venue all in one of Tacoma’s most historic buildings, beautifully restored, renovated and re-imagined after a long season of neglect.

Recently opened on April 24 and now employing more than 225 people, the Elks Temple was originally a lodge of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, one of the most popular fraternal societies in 1916, when the building was constructed, according to Lisa Kinsley, McMenamins’ general manager of human resources.

“This building is the premier example in the Pacific Northwest of the Beaux-Arts style of architecture,” said Michael Lafreniere, managing director of the Tacoma Historical Society. “What McMenamins has done with the Elks Temple is a great example of adaptive re-use of an historic building.”

Restoration and re-use of historic properties is one of McMenamins’ most distinctive contributions to communities where it has located its operations.

“Historic preservation is a real core value for us,” Lisa Kinsley said. “We actually have a full-time history department, which researches the historic value around a property, the community and its people. Then our historians connect with our full-time art department, so all the art you see in our properties is reflective of the building and the community. We love to re-invigorate these old historic buildings and give them new life so people can enjoy them.”

By restoring historic buildings, like the Elks Temple, McMenamins is also helping revitalize downtown business districts that have fallen on hard times.

“The building was vacant for many years and an eyesore in downtown Tacoma,” Kinsley said. “When we open these properties, they’re going to have a big effect on the areas around them and really help to do some revitalization.”

Less obvious, but also important, is the positive environmental impact of the adaptive re-use of old buildings.

“When historic buildings are repurposed, there are a number of benefits, not the least of which is that this is a very ‘green’ thing to do,” Lafreniere said. “The carbon footprint of repurposing existing buildings is so much less than building new construction from scratch in what it takes in the way of construction materials and so forth. The impact on the environment of building a new building is actually quite substantial.”

McMenamins’ contributions to the communities where its properties are located go beyond the physical revitalization of buildings and surrounding neighborhoods.

“We focus our charitable efforts mostly on schools,” Kinsley said. “A lot of our locations are really embedded in their communities, and we’ll frequently have ‘half nights’ for the local schools. That way we’re able to give half of the sales from an evening to the schools. We do it because we want to be part of the communities and help at the most basic level by giving in a way that will benefit the kids.”

Kinsley urges the community to come see the Elks Temple with its many unique features including distinctive hotel rooms that honor figures from Tacoma’s history, a “world traveler” bar that even features faux thunderstorms to enhance its tropical atmosphere, a ballroom with a very full schedule of concerts and a hidden bar where half the fun is just finding it.

“It’s really exciting for us to come to set up our operations and enjoy serving the public,” Kinsley concluded. “This is a really fun place for people to enjoy in Tacoma.”

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