Iconic community restaurants help make Lacey

June 9th, 2019 by Ken

If it’s true that the Hawks Prairie Restaurant is soon going to be demolished, it is just a continuation of destruction of Lacey’s history.  Three restaurants added significantly to the area becoming the City of Lacey.

The first of these was Lee’s Restaurant, located on Martin Way.  It was the only full-service facility in the Lacey area for many years.  It had a restaurant, a cocktail lounge and a large meeting room.  Many local groups met at Lee’s including the Lacey Area Chamber of Commerce.

In addition, Lee’s had the first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise in Washington state.  In the early 50’s, people would come from  all over to try this newest and latest trend in “fast food.”  To travel down from Seattle and Tacoma wasn’t unusual.

The original owner Lee Bensley sold the restaurant, which sat on US99.  When Interstate Five opened and took traffic off of Martin Way, the restaurant suffered hard times.  Opening of the Red Bull also added to the woes.  The building still stands and remains similar on the exterior.  It now sells motorcycles and similar products.

The second of the Iconic restaurants was the Red Bull.   Opened in 1966 when South Sound Center opened, it was originally called The Barb.  Sold to the McWain family, the Red Bull was a fell-service restaurant.  It had a coffee shop for mall shoppers, a full-sized restaurant, a cocktail lounge and a large meeting facility on the second floor.

Every major Lacey organization and many from Olympia, used the Red Bull’s meeting rooms. It was the heart of activities in the Lacey area.

The restaurant was eventually taken over by Bob Blume, the owner of South Sound Center and eventually sold.  Blume said at the time that he wasn’t in the restaurant business.  He also, apparently, wasn’t in the community building business either.  The restaurant was located in the general area of Target.

The Hawks Prairie Inn opened originally as an unofficial truck stop, with a quick shop store nearby.  For a decade, it was one of the few businesses in the Hawks Prairie area.  It had a full service restaurant, a cocktail lounge and meeting facilities.  Kiwanis, Lions and the chamber met at the facility.

Closure of these three restaurants were a significant impact on the Lacey community.  Ever community needs a meeting space at which the residents can meet, eat and make decision affecting them.. 

It’s also indicative of the difficulty owning, operating and running a privately owned restaurant can be in these times of quick food and quick service.

If it’s true, and I believe it is, then we will miss the Hawks Prairie Inn for personal, business and historic reasons.

Posted in The Real News

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