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Uniontown’s Mary Todd’s Workers Bar finds a buyer

Astoria author Kirk to take ownership in September
By Erick Bengel

The Daily Astorian

Published on July 15, 2017 8:48PM

Last changed on July 17, 2017 8:50AM

Mary Todd’s Workers Bar & Grill in Uniontown has been sold to an Astoria author.

Edward Stratton/The Daily Astorian

Mary Todd’s Workers Bar & Grill in Uniontown has been sold to an Astoria author.

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Author Diana Kirk has purchased Mary Todd’s Workers Bar & Grill.

Colin Murphey/The Daily Astorian

Author Diana Kirk has purchased Mary Todd’s Workers Bar & Grill.

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Mary Todd is giving up her iconic Uniontown bar.

Joshua Bessex/The Daily Astorian

Mary Todd is giving up her iconic Uniontown bar.

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Mary Todd, the owner of Mary Todd’s Workers Bar & Grill, said she has agreed to sell the Uniontown business and property to Diana Kirk, an Astoria resident and author.

Kirk wrote on Facebook that she signed the papers Friday afternoon. Todd will remain the owner until Sept. 13.

Todd, who put the property up for sale last year, originally listed it for $595,000 but ended up dropping the price, she said.

The tavern — a landmark of the Uniontown Historic District — is an iconic watering hole and gathering place known for campfires, barbecues, homestyle food, “yuccas” (a regionally famous vodka drink with lemon juice and simple syrup) and “Meat Bingo,” where customers can win hunks of packaged meat to prepare at home.


The ‘Workers Tavern’


In addition to the tavern, the historic building houses five apartments and boasts a backyard beer garden.

“Workers was the very first place I started hanging out in Astoria when I first came here,” said Kirk, who moved to Astoria from Portland within the last couple of years. “I hung out there a lot, and I just kind of listened to people’s stories, and I got to know a lot of people that work here.”

She loves that the bar is called a workers tavern, she said, because “there’s really hard-working people in this town, and they all hang out there, and I have a deep respect for that.”

That is why “I really want to keep the bar exactly the way it is,” she said. She plans to keep the ambiance but change the name to “Workers Tavern.”

Her contract with Todd stipulates that Kirk will keep the staff, a provision very important to Todd, who said the employees have “been so loyal, and they’re family to me.”


Changes


Kirk plans to hand over the apartment operations to a property manager. Tenants will have to vacate at purchase, “only because we need to go in and do some repairs, and that’ll be really hard with people in there,” Kirk said. The apartments will then open up as rentals, she added.

Repairs will also be made to the exterior, she said.

The site is part of the city’s Astor West Urban Renewal Area, “an important gateway into town,” City Planner Nancy Ferber said in an email. This means the business is eligible for the city’s Storefront Improvement Program, which provides support and funding for property owners in Uniontown to “invest in facade improvements while maintaining the character of the area,” Ferber wrote.

“The program is the commercial counterpart to the recent State Historic Preservation grant funds that were available to homeowners in Uniontown for exterior restoration projects on historic homes,” Ferber wrote.

Once Kirk takes over, the tavern will start accepting debit and credit cards. The business is now a cash-only establishment.

A commercial spot adjacent to the tavern may become a coin-op laundry facility, Kirk said.

The laundry would require additional parking, Ferber wrote, adding, “there are a handful of options to address this if there’s not enough off-street parking at the proposed location.”


‘Bittersweet’


The beloved bar has been in Todd’s life for about 27 years. She has “very mixed emotions” about passing it on: “It’s kind of bittersweet,” Todd said.

“This is a huge thing for me,” she said, “but I feel in my heart that it’s the right thing for me to do.”

Todd, 57, has been on the wagon for nearly 6 1/2 years. Since she got sober and rediscovered her spirituality, her life has moved in a different direction, she said.

“I don’t need the chaos of being a bar owner,” she said. “I do run the risk of someday maybe taking a drink, being so close to it, and I believe it’s time for a change.

In recent years, Todd has mentored young people addicted to drugs and alcohol, and has served as a sponsor for several local girls.


‘Blood, sweat and tears’


Todd, who resides in one of the upstairs apartments, plans to move in with her aunt in Svensen.

“I want to just relax and hang out with her, and do what she needs me to do for her, and get some peace and quiet,” she said.

Todd said she’s grateful that she could preside over the tavern for so many years.

“I’ve been able to help a lot of people. I was able to feed a lot of people. I’ve been able to do good, I think,” she said.

“It’s been hard. Blood, sweat and tears. It wasn’t easy,” she added. “But it’s what I did. I feel very good about it.”


A ‘valuable commodity’


One factor that convinced Todd to sell the business to Kirk: their shared belief that Astoria needs a bar like Mary Todd’s.

“I’m really grateful that somebody else feels that way,” Todd said.

Kirk said the patrons need a place to see their friends and have community. Under her ownership, the Workers Tavern will continue that tradition, she said.

“I think it’s really important that every town has a place like Mary Todd’s, and I want to keep it that way for that reason — because it’s a valuable commodity in a small community like this,” Kirk said.

Kirk is the author of “Licking Flames: Tales of Half-Assed Hussy,” a collection of personal essays published in 2016 by Black Bomb Books.



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