Stepping through the doors of The Paradise on Main Street is like stepping back in time.
The mix of dark red walls and pool tables, gold accents, dark quilted leather and stained wood floors are reminiscent of a Victorian-era tavern.
There is a massive old wooden bar behind the counter, of the kind once shipped around the horn to West Coast public houses.
And on one back wall, an antique Schwinn bicycle is displayed.
To step into The Paradise is, in fact, to step into a piece of Monroe history.
The Main Street building in which it is contained is a century old. And although since the 1970s the building was home to a bar called The Chopping Block, prior to that, it was The Paradise.
Jim Sofie, the man who bought the building and overhauled the interior, has a deep appreciation for the history of the location. His family has operated the barbershop in the other half of the building for more than 40 years, and that barbershop has been in business for more than a century.
About a year ago, Sofie heard that the building containing both The Chopping Block and his barbershop might be for sale. He approached the broker and arranged to buy it.
In October, he took possession of it, and for the next 10 months he and his family worked steadily to restore it. It was a big job.
“When we started the restoration, there was no crawl space under the floor, and after 100 years, the dirt was touching the joists,” said Sofie, as he did back-to-back haircuts next door Thursday. “So they ripped up the whole floor, dug down three feet, and replaced the floor.”
The new floor is wood, in keeping with the historic decor, and stained to a mahogany brown.
Then the workers gutted the entire kitchen, and with the help of a local expert, rebuilt it.
“Robbie, my first cook, he really helped out with the menu,” said Sofie. “He is very experienced, worked at the Hitching Post and the Buzz Inn and a lot of places, and he helped come up with the food.”
The resulting menu is simple but quality, with a selection of sandwiches and burgers, a flat iron steak, and an array of popular appetizers.
Sofie also rearranged the whole interior. Where there once was a raised area at the front of the building, there are now newly refurbished pool tables.
And at the back of the bar is a brand new, very professional stage, large enough to accommodate big bands, with lights built into the floor as well as over head, and a quality sound system for live music.
In the three weeks The Paradise has been open, several of the area’s most popular dance bands have employed there, including Midnight Special. Friday, for the official Grand Opening, Bluetopia played for a large, enthusiastic audience.
In fact, ever since The Paradise opened, it’s been busy and drawing a new and diverse clientele, said Sofie.
And because the bar is open every night until 2 a.m., there is steady late-night business, as well.
If the casual and friendly staff feels like a family, it is because several of them are; Sofie’s daughter is the manager, his son-in-law is a regular bartender, and Sofie himself comes over to tend bar after closing the barbershop for the night.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Sofie, who said he loves his new business venture.
Eventually, he said, he hopes to also return the exterior of the building to its historic white facade, including decorative corbels along the roof.
For right now, he wants people to know that The Paradise is a comfortable, attractive tavern suitable for everyone, and that it’s a great place to come unwind, listen to music, dance on the weekends, grab a bite and enjoy time with friends.
“It’s friendly,” said Sofie. “It’s a nice place to go and hang out.”
The Paradise Tavern is located at 116 E. Main St. in Monroe. It is open from noon to 2 a.m. every day of the week. For more information, call (360) 794-1888. Also visit The Paradise Tavern on Facebook.