Mike Looby and Larry Timby wanted to open a brand new Horse and Cow bar and restaurant in downtown Bremerton this month.
But the businesses partners have learned a lot about patience while working with the Washington State Small Business Development Center, the Small Business Administration and various banks.
“It’s been a learning experience for both of us from the ground up,” Looby said. “I’ve been in business for myself for more than 30 years and had bars all over the place. But actually trying to renovate a building, find financing and everything else that’s involved is mind-boggling. It really it is. And it takes a lot more time.”
Looby and Timby own a building at 242 Burwell Street, built in 1946, that formerly housed Scotty’s and the Nite Shift taverns. They have visionary plans to refurbish and remodel the building, inside and out, downstairs and up. The ultimate goal is to open a Horse and Cow, complete with a yellow submarine that sat idle in Seabeck for years, serving as a centerpiece of the revamped space.
The Horse and Cow franchise, known by sailors and shipyard workers the world over, got its start in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District in 1953. Looby’s father, Jimmy, a Korean War Army veteran, and Jimmy’s brothers, opened the place to serve submariners from nearby Hunter’s Point.
“Some of the sailors started to ask my dad and his brothers if it would be okay to bring in pictures and plaques,” Looby said. “My dad his brothers said, ‘Sure.’ Then it just became a competition of who had more stuff in the Horse and Cow.”
After Hunter’s Point closed in 1974, Looby’s father started a Horse and Cow in Vallejo where it lasted two decades until subs were transferred as part of Cold War cutbacks. Looby had also opened a San Diego version of the bar in 1990 which closed a decade a later when he opened one in Bremerton on Northlake Way. In 2007, Looby opened another bar in Guam and is in the process of opening one Hawaii.
Now, Looby and Timby are ready for a Bremerton comeback.
“We’re not giving any timeline, because it will happen when it happens,” Looby said. “We’re not on a tear like we were. Now it’s just a matter of time. We’re on the verge of getting it, right on the edge.”
And when they do open, the famous burgers and wings, along with dozens of beers on tap, will be staples.
“We’ve also talked about doing shellfish and doing it really well,” said Timby, who served in the Navy from 1982 to 1990 on the USS Daniel Boone and USS Alabama as a torpedo man.
“The thing I liked as a torpedo man on the old boomers, was everything in the torpedo room was rope and tackle,” he said. “We pushed ‘em back and forth and there were no electronics or push buttons for operating the tubes.”
For folks who have served on submarines, the name of the bar is likely to make more sense than it would to those who have not. During World War I and II, merchant sailors would often get tattoos of a horse on one ankle and a cow on the other. That’s because Neptune, God of the deep, is often portrayed in paintings and drawings while accompanied by a small horse and a small cow, or bull. The tattoos were meant to ensure safe passage at a time in which so many surface ships were being sunk by submarines.
Looby and Timby know they have the perfect audience for a Horse and Cow in Bremerton, but also want to appeal to a wider audience.
“In general, there’s not much going on as far as entertainment in downtown Bremerton,” Timby said. “We just figure, the Horse and Cow was a really popular spot on Northlake Way for a long time and a lot of people remember what it was like in the past. We’re going to offer a good time and good food. We’re not just catering to submarine sailors, either, but all military personnel, the shipyard workers and everybody else.”
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