Katts Westside Stories Bar in Mount Vernon Is Like No Other

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: a man walks into a bar. Not just any bar, mind you, but one with mannequins and – on rare occasion – even a swimming pool. Located less than a quarter-mile from the Skagit River in downtown Mount Vernon, Katts Westside Stories is this bar, and it’s where you’ll find some of Skagit County’s most fun and interesting people.

“I would say Katts is probably one of the most unique bars in the world,” says Rob Berlinski, who co-owns and operates the bar with its namesake, Katt Boynton.

Though the building at West Division and South Barker streets has been a bar of some kind since the 1970s, its current iteration didn’t take place until five years ago. Boynton, former owner of Mount Vernon’s defunct Cravings restaurant, teamed up with Berlinski – a musician with experience in bar promotions and events – to acquire the space in 2018.

Katts officially opened in June 2019. Its name derives not from the popular musical “West Side Story” but because it’s on the city’s west side, and – as a mural inside the bar proclaims – because everybody has a story.

“Every person, when you get to know them, is a human,” Berlinski says. “And if you’re not just making some blanket judgment, then you get to know someone’s story.”

Katts Westside Stories, in downtown Mount Vernon, might be the silliest and most diverse dive bar you’ll ever set foot in. Photo credit: Matt Benoit

A Diverse and Creative Dive Bar in Skagit County

Boynton and Berlinski say that Katts is among the most diverse bars you’ll ever set foot in. Its diversity isn’t an enforced effort, but rather one where people of all legal drinking ages and persuasions naturally gravitate to share space, beverages, and perhaps a favorite karaoke song. It’s a bar so diverse, Berlinski says, that it even led to the unlikely friendship of a devout Christian and a self-proclaimed Satanist.

“Out there in the world, there’s so many lines being drawn in the sand,” he says. “This is a place to get rid of all of that, or at least leave it outside. It’s a whole different universe in here, and the creativity runs rampant.”

That creativity is obvious the moment someone enters the bar, which Berlinski describes as similar to an ever-evolving art installation. Katts has several disco balls hanging from the ceiling above the stage area, which features a drum kit and large gong among other decor.

A skeleton riding a bicycle hangs from another part of the ceiling. There are also several headless mannequins that silently guard the stage. Though Katts now prides itself on being Mount Vernon’s “only mannequin bar,” Berlinski said the dummy decor was kind of an accident.

The bar initially had only had one mannequin, to display Katts t-shirt designs and to hold a Taco Thursday sign. But during the pandemic and the state’s temporary ban on live entertainment, Berlinski decided to film a music video in the bar. Since no real audience could attend, he obtained several mannequins, telling Boynton they’d be gone after the weekend.

But shortly after filming, state bars were abruptly allowed to re-open at limited capacity, and the mannequins remained. Years later they still haven’t left, and are frequently redecorated for the season or occasion being celebrated.

The inside of the bar, which includes a stage area featuring several headless but decorated mannequins, is like an ever-evolving art installation. Photo credit: Matt Benoit

Events at Katts Westside Stories Bar in Mount Vernon

And there is no shortage of things to celebrate at Katts.

Its nightly karaoke events, known as “Sing Song Bing Bong,” commonly see people belting out tunes from atop tables. Boynton encourages everybody to sing, no matter how good their voice is, and simply have fun.

“It isn’t ‘American Idol,’” Berlinski says. “We’re not trying to have a contest with anybody.”

Katts Westside Stories Bar also hosts live music, stand-up comedy, and even drag shows. But its themed parties – from birthdays to holidays – are where things can get wild. With themes ranging from burlesque to cowboy, Katts has been truly transformed on several occasions.

For the cowboy party, the bar’s floor was covered in hay and a large blow-up unicorn was moved in. The original plan was to bring in live ponies, Berlinski says, but the obvious illegality and issues with doing so caused them to reconsider. “If you have animals in there, it becomes problematic because the horses will just steal your hamburger,” he says. “Plus, horses, they don’t have any money. So they’re not like the greatest customers.”

The bar also once held a Mad Max party, with several people using harnesses and bungee cords to hang from the ceiling and reenact fight scenes with fake swords. Last year, Katts sought to level up their ‘spring break’ party, sending Berlinski and others to Miami as a “research team.”

The eventual result was a bar party featuring a sandbox with sand castle buckets, a beach volleyball net, and a swimming pool that took up the center of the bar. People used surf boards and pool toys, and there was even a jet ski. In the end, the bar partially flooded.  

“We’re like an adult Chuck E. Cheese sometimes,” Berlinski says.

The bar also features live music, stand-up comedy and even drag shows. Photo credit: Tara Almond

Katts Westside Stories Bar Menu and More

Despite seeming like a true dive bar, Katts Westside Stories Bar nevertheless features a solid rotating food menu with as many fresh ingredients as possible.

The menu mostly focuses on burgers, which are spiced and hand-pressed to-order, but the bar is well-known for its Friday Reuben sandwiches, Wednesday wings, Taco Thursdays, and occasional Philly cheesesteaks. There are also salads.

Katts Westside Stories Bar also has signature cocktails, and all its beers are Washington-brewed. While they lack a daily happy hour, the bar frequently has blowout specials where specific beers are sold for $2 to $3 a pint. During Sing Song Bing Bong, a specific beer is offered for $3.

The bar has attracted a loyal group of regulars, many of whom helped keep the bar afloat during the pandemic by placing takeout food orders when the bar couldn’t seat people. In addition to all the fun and food, Katts also supports the community in more serious and thoughtful ways.

Berlinski said Boynton occasionally shows up late to work on cold winter days because she’s busy passing out sleeping bags to those in-need. And during the heat of summer, the bar always leaves a cooler outside with bottled water and sunscreen for anyone who needs some.

“I love everything about this bar,” Boynton says. “I never say I don’t want to come to work. It’s interesting every single day.”

For more information, visit the Katts Westside Stories Bar website.

Katts Westside Stories Bar
100 S Barker St, Mount Vernon

Print Friendly, PDF & Email