A new sports bar near KeyArena is on track to open in mid-May, with the looming redevelopment of the venue a key factor in the owner’s decision to set up shop.

“If theoretically you have two sports teams in there, it’s just too many people that are going to be around too many days a year to pass up on an opportunity like that,” said Kirbie Predmore of the soon-to-be Uptown Hophouse.

After owning Cooper’s Ale House in Maple Leaf for 16 years, Predmore sold the bar a little over a year ago, and had been searching for a new venture. He was initially hesitant about the space in the ground floor of Vivid Apartments (219 First Ave. N.), but revisited the idea as the KeyArena remodel plans moved forward, and came to terms with the landlord.

While the hope is to take advantage of the traffic that a renovated Key would bring, that first means surviving the two years of construction that precede it. Predmore acknowledged the challenge that presents, but hopes to draw in nearby apartment dwellers seeking a reprieve from cramped quarters.

“Most of these apartments that are going in are 400 or 500 square feet at the most,” he said. “I doubt it’s a space that people love hanging out in, so we want to kind of be their living room.”

Predmore said the fact the bar is in a new building allows him to focus less on day-to-day maintenance and more on things like customer service, the beer selection, and — perhaps most importantly — making sure the TVs are on the right channel.

“There’s really silly little things, that you walk into a place and you have to ask them to put on the Seattle game, whatever sport it is,” he said.

The 21-and-over spot will focus on IPAs, part of what Predmore thinks will set the Hophouse apart from other bars.

“I know that’s not super cool now, everybody wants to do sours and barrel-aged and Belgians, and I just think — it’s the best selling beer and it’s my favorite style of beers,” he said.

The fact that the bar’s kitchen won’t have a hood also means a different spin on food offerings.

“Our kitchen’s going to be a little more creative than most,” he said. “We’re not going to have burgers and fries and some of the normal pub grub you can imagine.”

In the meantime, Predmore will get a test run of sorts between the time the bar opens and when the arena closes to see how his business might function with a steady stream of sports fans and concertgoers.

He expects staffing to provide challenges, as employees typically prefer finding steadier work than what the event rush typically provides.

“Some of my friends that have had places up here — especially when the Sonics were still around — said that was their biggest nightmare,” he said. “[It] was getting enough employees when there’s an event, yet keeping those employees around when there’s not an event.”

Transportation for those workers will likely provide its own set of issues, with Predmore considering providing ORCA cards to his workers, or working out an agreement with a nearby parking lot.

There’s also a bit of uncertainty around what might end up in the ground-floor spaces of other mixed-use developments in the area. But even if another bar were to move in a few blocks away, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. 

“Most of the people that go into a place like that, they also know what they’re doing,” he said. “They’re not going to go into a place and think there’s not enough people to support both places. A lot of times, you become more of a cluster … you draw more people to your neighborhood.”

For now though, Predmore is focused on the task at hand.

“It’s a little terrifying, I’ve never done anything like it — build it up from scratch — but I don’t think there’s anything like us around here,” he said.

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