There was no Twitter or Facebook in Seattle when Mick McHugh came up with a unique marketing idea.
It happened after a chance encounter with famed painter Leroy Neiman, who just happened to be walking by the corner of King and Occidental after an art show up the street.
"We gotta get him to paint the place!" said McHugh, recounting the story on Friday, the same spot he's been a part of for nearly 40 years.
Those were the early days of FX McRory's Steak and Oyster House, and McHugh was looking for a way to promote the place. He told the cantankerous painter he thought his bar was a work of art.
But he had to convince Neiman, who was then at the height of his career, to do it. McHugh says he flew to New York with a business partner and $25,000 in gold. They went to Neiman's apartment.
"I said, ring him and tell him the boys from Seattle are here!"
McHugh said it was a down payment for a custom painting of the restaurant's whiskey bar.
$100,000 and one year later, Neiman finished his work. A story in Time Magazine about it all cemented FX's place in Seattle and across the country.
It's a painting that hangs proudly near the bar to this day, and during a weekend which is bittersweet. FX, which has been in the corner since 1977, is closing its doors.
"(It's a) little emotional, kind of catching up," said McHugh, always quick with a smile.
He took a chance on the spot back then in gritty part of town. McHugh and a partner spent $2 million, unheard of in those days, sprucing up the nearly 11,000-square-foot bottom floor of an old warehouse. There is custom plasterwork throughout and iconic pillars behind the bar.
It's a place near the old Kingdome where fans celebrated the Seahawks, Sonics, Sounders and Mariners. They celebrated there again when investment groups kept the M's and Hawks from moving out of the city.
But now, in a rapidly developing part of the city, McHugh says his landlord wants to keep up with the times. It means a full earthquake retrofit, which requires an interior demolition.
The hardest part, says McHugh, will be relocated 28 taps and the 1,600 different elixirs. But he does plan on moving to another location half the size, somewhere else in Pioneer Square.
"I said I gotta little juice left. I want to keep going."
But the last call at the intersection of the past and the future will be Sunday. There will be a bit of an Irish wake and, McHugh hopes, a celebration.
"To have 40 years in this business, any business, family business, is a big deal. Forty years in a restaurant in Seattle in gritty Pioneer Square, I'm proud we did it...and we're gonna keep going."
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