It began nearly three years ago with several buddies, all Land Park residents, sitting in front of a TV watching a Giants playoff game.
As Devon Atlee recalls it, one of them noted how fun it would be to take in the game at Joe Marty’s, the longtime Sacramento sports bar that shut down in 2005 after a kitchen fire. Then, Atlee remembers saying, “Who’s going to open it? You know what? We should do it.”
In early December, two of those pals, Atlee and Jack Morris, are going to do just that.
For the past two weeks, crews have been working on plumbing and structural upgrades at the building, part of the Tower Theatre complex on Broadway. On Sept. 25, framing started, with electrical work to follow next week and construction set to be finished by late November.
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Then, prior to opening, the owners will start the fun part: filling the place with the baseball memorabilia that was a hallmark of the original bar and grill opened by former major leaguer Joe Marty in 1938.
For the new place, the emphasis will again be on honoring this city’s rich baseball history, with pictures, bats, gloves and other sports mementos. Some have been contributed by former professional ballplayers from this area.
“Many have gone out of their way to call and say, ‘Hey, let me know how I can help,’ ” said Morris, who runs a medical equipment sales company.
The focal point behind the bar will be two old-style, open lockers. One will display one of Marty’s old uniforms, the other a jersey from a local baseball star, rotating each month.
One other possible decoration: the former scoreboard from Dooley Field, the Little League ballpark in the Land Park neighborhood.
Atlee, a commercial real estate executive and a former American Legion ballplayer himself, said the place will be a family friendly hangout, with an open, bright feel in contrast to the “small, dark and dingy” but still lovable vibe at the former Marty’s operation.
Kelly Ariza, the former owner of Crawdad’s River Cantina, has been brought on as general manager. Scott Leysath, a longtime local restaurateur known as “the sporting chef” for his expertise in preparing wild game, will be in charge of developing the menu.
The food focus: traditional comfort staples including meat smoked on-site.
As they near the bar’s reopening date, Atlee and Morris marvel that this venture, started on little more than a whim, is becoming reality.
On numerous occasions, they considered dropping the idea. Among the challenges was getting the trademark for the Joe Marty’s name. That took almost two years.
Leasing the site also was tricky. The partners entered into talks with the building owner – the Blumenfeld family of San Francisco – almost three years ago, then broke off negotiations for nine months and looked at other potential sites.
“But,” Atlee said, “we kept coming back to this location with all its history and to that sign” – the neon landmark outside the bar that is almost as well-known as the Tower marquee down the street.
Other challenges included a worse-than-expected plumbing system, which ended up delaying the permitting process.
“We could have given up so many times,” Atlee said. But, he said, the two partners were driven to keep going by the support of neighbors and friends and by this:
“We really had the conviction that someone should do this,” he said, “and nothing should go (in that location) other than Joe Marty’s.”