BREMERTON — It started with Tuesday night dinners, with more than a dozen people squeezed around a six-person table sharing food and beer, and then playing board or card games.
But with lack of parking, only one type of beer provided and no one wanting to do the dishes, Ashley Martinez and her friends brainstormed a solution.
Thus came the idea for Ashley’s Pub: Boardom’s End.
“We just kind of decided to make our own place that served our purposes,” Martinez said. “Now, only one person has to do the dishes, but it’s only cups. Then people can bring their own food in here, so we don’t have to worry about dietary needs, and then there’s such a selection of alcohol and sodas that no one will feel left out.”
Ashley’s Pub: Boardom’s End is literally a board-gaming pub, Martinez said, that will have 16 bar taps, as well as a selection of bottled beer and cider, wine and soda.
“It’s a nice way to get people to come, hang out at a bar, get off their phones, meet new people,” Martinez said. “I’m excited for that.”
Martinez said she expects to have a soft opening mid-May, after which she’ll schedule a grand opening, and they will “definitely” have a celebration.
“I definitely feel like this place encourages not just the kid in me to come out more, but the kind in other people to come out more,” Martinez said.
Inside the pub, people will be able to help themselves to one of the many board games available to play, spread it out on a table and play with friends or new acquaintances for however long it takes.
“Blue Sky [Hobbies, in Bremerton] donated a lot to me, which was awesome,” Martinez said. “A lot of people will sort through their game libraries and give me what they don’t play anymore. “
She’s also gotten some games from Amazon, Barnes &Noble and Walgreens, and at “nerd conventions” like Comic Con and a recent board game convention in Tacoma.
The beer she’ll have on tap (and don’t forget to check out the bar taps, decorated with Legos and topped with a rotating cast of Lego people including Wonder Woman, Maleficent, the Cheshire Cat and more) will be a rotating list of “every style of beer and a lot of cider,” Martinez said.
“I love board games, I love nerd culture, but I also really love beer and cider, and in talking with some of the distributors about what I want … I don’t want to carry the beers everyone is used to,” she said. “I want to be able to have people try new beers and expand their palate, and I think I can do a pretty good job with that.”
However, she did say a few beers she knows are good will be there year round, for those who don’t always want to try new things.
Even the bar itself is a unique love letter to nerd culture.
Located on the corner of Fourth Street and Pacific Avenue in downtown Bremerton, beneath Hot Java Cafe, simply walking into the pub is an experience unto itself. If you choose to go through the Pacific Avenue entrance, you may realize a giant set of stairs between Hot Java Cafe and Liberty Bay Books that some people have never noticed before. Or take the fourth street entrance, through a courtyard that some people have possibly walked past without noticing.
The courtyard is covered in Martinez’ insurance and liquor license, too, so anyone with an interest can be served beer outside to enjoy the fresh air — as well as a beanbag-toss game and possibly even a fire pit, in the future.
“I want that door to be my main entrance, especially so that people see the courtyard and enjoy the courtyard and enjoy the sunshine,” Martinez said.
Martinez said she has a love for the great outdoors, something people don’t always get to enjoy in western Washington. But that love is evident even inside.
Two large murals adorn the walls inside, one a daytime scene of a path through a forest, the other a night time scene of a forest. Two large, brown pillars take up space inside, which Martinez said will eventually be painted to look like trees themselves, growing through her pub.
“Just a place to help transport you to other worlds, kind of,” Martinez said.
Jonathon Perry, Martinez’s boyfriend, painted the murals inside. She said he “loves doing big murals, so I didn’t hesitate to ask if he wanted to help, and he was very exited to get to show off some of his work inside.”
The floor, too, is unique. After tearing out the carpet that used to be in the space, Martinez, her brother Isaac Fleming, a part owner of the bar, looked for a cost effective way to redo the floor, which proved to be an odd mix of wood and plaster-covered concrete. Eventually they settled on a “paper-bag style” floor, which was laid down by volunteers from the community. The floor now has a sort of step-stone appearance. A few of the “step stones” have a signature, or a drawing, or a message scrawled on them, left by the volunteers who placed the floor.
“We had 12 to 15 people show up to get on their hands and knees and help me lay the floor,” Martinez said. “I knew this was not an ideal job, but I was just astounded. So one of the reasons we have all the stuff on the floor is just, one of my ways of thanking them for doing that was to give them their own little Hollywood star. (I said,) ‘You have now put your sweat and luckily no blood, and I want to give at least a little part of it back.’
“The floor, to me, is just a symbol of the love and support that I have opening this, and it just makes me happy.”
However, Martinez’ real pride and joy is the bar top, which is covered in pages from female-driven comic books.
“Gaming, whether it be video gaming or board gaming, nerd culture in general, tends to be more of a male-dominated field,” Martinez said. “And so one of the reasons why (I named it Ashley’s Pub), and the reason why I wanted female-driven comic books up there, is to get women to feel more comfortable coming out and drinking by themselves, or coming to play games, and just getting them out and making sure they feel comfortable here, because this is as much their culture as it is a male culture.”
As for the community, Martinez said she’s gotten a ton of encouragement and support.
“Every business owner that I’ve talked to in downtown Bremerton has been super supportive,” Martinez said. “And welcoming. And offering any help they can. Even outside of the downtown Bremerton [area]. The owner of Slaughter County Brewery was here just to meet me and hang out, and he ended up helping me hang some of my ceiling tiles.”
She said she’ll also be working with Dragonfly Cinema in Port Orchard to put on movie nights, with trivia and popcorn and “all sorts of stuff.”
“All these people are just kind of helping where they can and giving advice, which I always appreciate,” Martinez said. “I know that I’m new to this business, but I also know I’ve got a good group of people around me who know what they’re doing so they can help me do what I do. So far, the community has just been amazing, and I feel like they’re going to embrace this place and make it their own.”
— Michelle Beahm is a reporter for the Kitsap News Group. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.