CG Public House buying Uncle Sam’s Saloon, won’t change the nachos

The owners of CG Public House are buying Uncle Sam’s Saloon, a popular 21-and-over sports pub with an Old West vibe near Columbia Center mall.

Kyle Simmons, together with his sister, Stef Simmons, and parents, Steve and Shirley Simmons, expect to close on the two-part deal March 28. Terms were not disclosed.

The deal includes a contract to purchase the 4,000-square-foot building, 8378 W. Gage Blvd., and a contract to purchase its furnishings, fixtures and goodwill, or blue sky.

Uncle Sam’s will close for a day to take inventory, which is why the buyers are pushing for a March 28 closing. It’s a Monday, so if the closure spills into a second day, it should not disrupt business too much, Kyle said.

The new owners will retain Uncle Sam’s 19 employees, its name, atmosphere and menu. Kyle said he’s been warned not to mess up a good thing.

“Everyone says, ‘Please don’t change the nachos.’ The nachos are a thing,” he said.

Uncle Sam’s doesn’t microwave chips and cheese sauce. Instead, it bakes its nachos – corn chips, seasoned ground beef, cheese, olives, onions, tomatoes and jalapeno in four-inch-deep trays – then tops them with salsa and sour cream. That won’t change, Kyle promised.

Kyle said he is a longtime fan and guest of Uncle Sam’s and admires what the sellers, Shirley and Danny Gray, created.

The couple took over the former Silent Sam’s, a bar and cardroom, nearly 20 years ago and turned it into a sports bar, reportedly the Tri-Cities’ first. It was renamed “Uncle Sam’s Saloon” about a decade ago.

Kyle Simmons, Steve Simmons and Stef Simmons are purchasing Uncle Sam’s Saloon near Columbia Center mall in Kennewick. Image courtesy Kyle Simmons. (Courtesy Kyle Simmons)

It draws a crowd of mature sports fans with its 54 TVs and 60 beers on tap. The saloon is a festive gathering spot for football games and major sporting events.

“It’s just a great environment. Their staff is awesome. The food is good, consistent and with great specials that they’ve been doing for years,” he said.

The Grays intend to retire but have worked to ensure the buyers know the business before it changes hands.

“We’ve built a great relationship with Shirley and Danny. When I go in, they introduce me to all the regulars. It’s been great,” he said.

The last hurdle before closing is to transfer the saloon’s gambling license to support its pull tabs business. Until the sale closes and a new gambling license is in place, the Grays will operate Uncle Sam’s – pull tabs and all.

Kyle said he did not have the resources to attempt the purchase when the Grays first listed it in 2017. But then his sister, Stef, moved to the Tri-Cities last year with her family. A mortgage broker, the former Portlander was looking for an investment. Kyle suggested Uncle Sam’s.

The Simmons family discussed it and decided to make an offer. Although Uncle Sam’s will join the CG Public House food service family, it will retain its identity.

The Simmons family operates CG Public House, a restaurant on West Clearwater Avenue, and Bite at the Landing in Columbia Park, both in Kennewick.

It previously stepped out of the on-site café business, pulling out of operations at the Pendleton Convention Center, Columbia Basin College and on the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory campus.

It also holds the food-service contract for the premium seating area, including suites, during Washington State University football games in Pullman.

Simmons, a 2012 graduate of WSU’s hospitality program who spends much of the football season living near campus, said the family is confident the purchase of Uncle Sam’s Saloon will be seamless to customers. The new owners will operate in the background.

“It’s a pretty turnkey acquisition. I have a full-time job running a restaurant and catering company. Stef is full time in mortgage and my father is trying to retire,” he said.

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