Days after opening Hops ‘N Headz to the public, general manager Steve Kim knew there would be plenty of demand.
“The neighborhood just didn’t have anything like this,” he said. “We’ve already hit full capacity.”
The all-ages tap house, restaurant and head shop at 3207 Northwest Ave., had a soft opening the last week of December. With 30 beers on tap, including many local brews, Hops ‘N Headz is a beer-focused business in an area of town where craft brew is in demand.
In a recent poll on bellinghamtaptrail.com, participants voted the Birchwood neighborhood as the place where they would most like to see the next brewery open. Though Hops ‘N Headz isn’t a brewery, the bar has beer from local breweries Kulshan Brewing, Aslan Brewing, and Wander Brewing and Boundary Bay Brewery.
Kim owned Osaka Japanese Restaurant, which operated in the current Hops ‘N Headz space for 13 years until it closed in September. He said he made the switch from a sushi restaurant to a tap room because dealing with raw fish and a full sushi bar became too demanding.
“Dealing with that takes a lot of energy and dedication,” Kim said.
The tap room has a menu that Kim calls “pub fare with a little flare.” It includes traditional and nontraditional items like a Snake River Farms Kobe Beef burger, a Kimchi burger, calamari, chicken wings and deep-fried Kool-Aid.
Kim plans to serve dishes from the old Osaka menu occasionally, but a full sushi bar is not in the works, he said.
After closing Osaka, Kim gave the building a facelift with fresh paint, refinished tables and a new bar with a blue and green color scheme. The layout stayed roughly the same, he said.
In the back of the tap room, Kim is putting the finishing touches on a row of display cases where he plans to sell cigars and locally-made glass pipes. Kim said the head shop part of the business an experiment and will will adapt to fit what customers want.
He’s already scaled back the head shop, moving it into an area half the size of what he originally planned, because the tap room reached capacity three days after the soft opening.
Kim said Hops’N Headz is attracting a very local crowd so far.
“I think the only way to really survive these days for local and small businesses is to go as local as you can,” he said. “It’s a beautiful thing to see this become a neighborhood hang out where you can come in and laugh and enjoy yourself with your neighbors.”
Hops ‘N Headz will have a grand opening celebration in mid-to-late January, Kim said. By then he hopes to hire more employees to bring the total to 12, and install a new payment system.
Currently, the restaurant is open from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. with later hours on the weekends. Kim said the hours will likely change by the grand opening.
Find more information and up-to-date hours at the Hops ‘N Headz Facebook page.