The Muse Whiskey And Coffee

EVERETT — When the Weyerhaeuser Building at the Port of Everett debuted, it was a showpiece for big timber.

Now the Prohibition-era building has found new life as an elegant watering hole.

About 50 people gathered Wednesday at the port to christen The Muse Whiskey Bar & Coffee Shop and to congratulate Jack Ng and Jin Ma, the whiskey bar’s owners.

The Muse opened this week, but the husband and wife team didn’t take a breather.

Ng, the owner of three restaurants in Snohomish and Island counties, plans to open his fourth, Fisherman Jack’s, at the Everett waterfront next month.

“I’d open it now,” Ng said. “I just need to hire 80 people.”

The couple took on the gargantuan task of restoring the Weyerhaeuser Building to its 1920s grandeur, said Ng, who signed a 10-year lease with the port, which owns the building.

The port contributed $1 million in the project. Ng invested “several million,” he said.

The upgrades included a new electrical system, sprinkler system and the addition of a lift to carry visitors to the second floor, Ng said.

“This building has been an icon for as long as I’ve been here,” said port CEO Lisa Lefeber, who joined the port’s staff in 2005. Every time Lefeber passed by the ornate Gothic building, she thought: “We’ve got to get this building back into public use,” she said.

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With whiskey, wine and coffee on the menu, “this is a place all ages can enjoy,” she said.

With its collection of artifacts and historic photographs, the Weyerhaeuser Building will also double as a museum. Space on the second floor is reserved for the Mukilteo Yacht Club and the Milltown Sailing Association. When not in use by those groups, it is available to rent for private events, Ng said.

One shot whiskey, one shot tear gas

Empty for 30 years, the century-old structure offered a few surprises, including a painful booby-trap.

Constructed in 1923 — when cash was king — the first floor houses a 160-ton concrete and steel safe.

Unfortunately, a worker discovered the walk-in vault was still armed and standing guard. When a project manager pulled a hidden lever inside the steel cage, “he took a shot of tear gas in the face and ended up at the clinic,” said Troy Johnson, project development director at Graham Construction.

The former safe has been re-purposed and is now a temperature-controlled wine cooler.

Still, caution is the watchword for Muse bar manager T.J. Rogers. When he steps inside the former safe, there’s no reaching for any unknown steel levers or arms, he said.

Mayor Cassie Franklin, who thanked the Ngs for their “fantastic” investment, said she had rented one of the cooler’s small, individual lockers.

State Rep. Julio Cortes, a Democrat in the 38th Legislative District, also snagged a locker — No. 38, he said in a Facebook post.

Jin Ma oversaw the transformation of the interior while abiding by guidelines set by the National Historic Registry.

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Ma chose blues, greens and grays to decorate the bar and coffee shop and an outdoor patio, building on the historic palette.

She paired photographs of Everett, the gritty mill town with solemn portraits of Weyerhaeuser executives and founder Frederick Weyerhaeuser.

“There was no detail that was overlooked,” Port Commissioner Glen Bachman said.

Candy Wells-Sehorn, a Marysville resident, took a front seat at Wednesday’s ribbon cutting. Years ago, her great-grandfather, Robert William Hunt, was a Weyerhaeuser manager with an office in the building.

She was awed and grateful to see the building returned to its glory.

“I think it’s fabulous, ” Wells-Sehorn said.

Despite its imposing exterior and heft — the building weighs 350 tons — it’s a well-traveled structure.

It’s been moved three times since it was built, in 1938, 1983 and 2016, occupying four different locations at the port. Weyerhaeuser occupied the 6,000-square-foot office space until the mill closed in 1979. The company donated the building to the port in 1983.

In 1986, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

And in 2022, Port of Everett commissioners authorized a 10-year lease with the Lokey Group, which Ng heads, to redevelop the historic building.

The lease is $6,000 per year for the first five years. After that, it rises to $12,000 per year with 3% increases in the final four years.

Initial rent is low because the surrounding area hasn’t been fully developed by the port yet. There are six options to extend the lease another five years at market value for each extension, but rent won’t be lower than it was in the 10th year and can’t increase more than 15% in any one year.

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The port also gets 6% of sales after $500,000 in annual gross sales.

Ng projects $1.25 million in sales the first year and over $2 million by the 10th year.

Under the agreement, the port paid $1 million to get the building ready. The work including replacing all the windows, renovating the interior and upgrading utilities and restrooms.

The Muse is the third food and drink establishment to open this summer at the port. Sound2Summit Brewery and Woods Coffee at the Everett Marina Village opened in June. Fisherman Jack’s and South Fork Bakery Co. at Waterfront Place are expected to open next month.

Janice Podsada: 425-339-3097;; Twitter: @JanicePods.