Also known over the years as the Aquarius Tavern and Parker’s Casino, it originally opened as a naughty out-of-town “roadhouse” on the then-new highway from Seattle to Everett. The 20,000 square foot room (with no supporting posts inside) was a rollicking big-band venue during the swing years, then a major rock club hosting everyone from the Fabulous Wailers and the Sonics to Heart.
It was a cardroom and sports bar most recently, closing earlier this year. If any attempt was made to save it, I haven’t heard of it.
The Lava Lounge, Belltown’s hip hangout bar since 1995, was the topic of assorted rumors over the last month or two. Depending on which story you heard, the Lava might or might not be sold within the next month or so, and might or might not be closing shortly after that.
Finally came the official word: Mike McAlpin, who’s owned the Lava since its start (and also owns Mama’s Mexican Kitchen two doors down), has sold the Lava to Marcus Johnson and Jessica Gifford.
Johnson and Gifford already own two other bars in the neighborhood, the Rabbit Hole (on the same block as the Lava) and Bathtub Gin. They promise to add the rummy-tiki drinks a place that looks like the Lava ought to have, but to otherwise keep it the same friendly lowlife joint it’s always been.
(Marcus Johnson is not to be confused with Marcus Charles, who owns Belltown’s Crocodile and Local 360, and who had also owned the now-closed Juju next door to the Lava.)
(Marcus Johnson is also not to be confused with Marques Johnson, former TV/radio announcer for the (sniff) Sonics.)
Sweetpea’s Birthday Hootenanny! Gonna be foot-stompin’ Toe-tappin’ heck of a time. Complete with 4 bands, cute bartenders, silent auction, complimentary Sailor Jerry Rum samples, and dancin’ with the birthday girl. Head on down to Slim’s Last Chance at 5606 1st ave S.
Bring a New, Unwrapped Toy for our toy collection.
Music by Marshall Scott Warner & THE BLACK CRABS Burlesque by Emerald Dollies
Hosting by Sweetpea, Kitty Baby & The Pinup Angels
Raffle Prizes!Drink Specials! RJB Photo Booth!
CHRISTMAS CUTIE PINUP CONTEST: Anything goes! Christmas Cutie, Naughty Elf, Mrs. Clause, Mistress Clause, Drunk Santa. ALL are welcome. NO PRE-REGISTRATION NEEDED. Just show up cute! No dressing room will be provided. Contest will be held maybe 11pm-ish, depending on how the night goes. Prizes TBA.
Also, we are still accepting prizes for our raffle drawings. If you would like to donate goods, or services, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will get you in touch with the Pinup Angels that are organizing the event. Thanks!
Starting at 9pm is the WXPFL Tournament pitting WXPFL Superstars vs. randonly drawn audience members in a battle for cash, prizes, trophy, glory, and most importantly, and immediate shot at the WXPFL Championship!
The same championship currently held by the most dangerous and outspoken man in the sport, 4-time champ THE BIRD!
Going for the Bird’s trophy are the members of the roster of WXPFL Pro Gra-Fighting Superstars…, Mick Finster The Lepre-Con, DeeeVious Silvertounge, Ronald McFondle, Thaddeus P. Skrilla – The Hundred Dollar Man and more!
Recently added to the tournament is a former WPFL champion, a true living legend, and one of the biggest stars of 80’s Gra-Fighting:
THE PENULTIMATE WARRIOR!
Does he still have what it takes to swing cedar with the young blood?
PLUS: Special challenge match:
Both of THE ASSHOLE BROTHERS vs. HIGH CHIEF ANAKORTES ORKAS – THE SAN JUAN ISLAND SAVAGE in a first-time-ever TICONDEROGA TRIPLE THREAT MATCH!
Live Music by “The Sound of Pencil Fighting”:
DJ BOBCAT spins non-stop Metal all night!
Hosted by Prof. Jake Stratton (BloodHag, Rat City Rollergirls, SSP)
and Don “Beauty” Rumble.
Sponsored by Pabst Blue Ribbon, The Rat City Rollergirls, Scarecrow Video, Pierced Hearts Tattoo & Piercing, Puffin’ Glass studios, Archie McPhee, Dixon/Ticonderoga Pencils and Buff Nuxx weight gain powder.
THURSDAY MAY 20th at THE FUNHOUSE
WXPFL V: ERASED
$7 21+ 8pm doors/9pm…Pencil Fight!
The Funhouse 206 5th ave. N. Under the Space Pencil, I mean, Needle.
Come up north on Saturday Feb 13th to celebrate the rebirth of a great neighborhood dive, Darrell’s Tavern at 18041 Aurora.
I’d passed by Darrell’s Tavern (just off Aurora Avenue, a bit south of Aurora Village) so many times, and never happened to find it open when it was convenient. Then when I started to make trips specifically to go there, I’d find it closed even at the most unexpected times. As I visited other area bars and chatted with the locals, I began to pick up pieces of the story of the aging, interesting owner — the CPA business upstairs (where he may or may not have lived for a while), the fleet of Lincoln Continentals in the parking lot, the Korean wife who spiced up the place for a few years, then left him, subsequently caring less and less about the bar as a going concern.
I despaired of ever being able to add Darrell’s to my Project K-Bar list of bars where I’ve had a drink. So I was delighted to be driving past one night and notice that it was actually open. And I was even more pleased to find that it had a new owner, Dan Dykman, who appreciates the character and the history of the place while simultaneously bringing some much needed upkeep and upgrades. Dan dropped a healthy sum just to fix, move, and preserve the old sign out front, and while cleaning up the classic 60s decor and neighborhood feel, he is bringing in live music, adding liquor, and making other improvements.
This Saturday Dan is having a “grand re-opening” party with live music at the bar “where your dad used to drink.” If you love great old neighborhood bars, you owe to yourself to drop by — on Saturday night if possible, or sometime not too long after that.
Sylvia O’Stayformore, a longtime drag hostess and fixture on Capitol hill, is taking the new light rail to explore the city. She has taken the lead pianist of her previous band, Pocket Hercules, and they are off to explore the world. First stop Orient Express. Join Sylvia and Tor Middlewood as they explore rare Bacharach, vaudeville standards, girl group songs and original compositions. It’s true intimate cabaret at it’s finest. The train cars are small so come early to get a good seat where all the action is. Dinner and Drinks are served all night.
Tor Middlewood has an abiding love for 60s Pop of all kinds, but Girl Group artists and French Pop in particular. Since he encountered reactions ranging from bewilderment to dismay when suggesting to the heterosexual musicians he’s worked with trying to work Girl Group songs into their repertoire, he thought he may as well give a drag queen performer a try. Good thing he did. He has found in Sylvia an alacrity and openness to so many kinds of music he loves, it has set the beehive, or should we say anthill, of his mind a-whirl with the possibilities.
Tor, who plays guitar as well as keyboards, has played Rock of all kinds with a plethora of musicians and can bring the RAWK with the best of them, but, feeling it’s not quite right for him to stuff a sock in his pants and perm his hair, and due to the fact that he doesn’t have a Marshall stack, has decided to turn his talent elsewhere…. for the time being. Certain songs he’s written which were turned down by other musical outfits he is in and has been in can now find an audience. He calls his pairing with Sylvia O “a little twisted, but overall, perfect. Now this is fun!”
Orient Express Restaurant and Lounge 2963 4th Ave. S. (SODO) Seattle WA. Show runs every Thursday night (January and February) from 8:00pm-10:00pm No Cover
Thursday, January 7, 2010 08:00 PM – Thursday February 25th, 2010
Restaurant reservations and information: 206-682-0683
Below is a list of Seattle area bars that I’ve found which have origins preceding 1950 (and my best assessement of the bar’s date of origin, as per the guidelines I described in Part 3). Any one of them would make a fine Repeal Day setting, especially if you’ve never been to it before. If I have missed any, of if you have any information or questions on these old bars, please drop me a line at email@example.com.
[Update: This list has been amended considerably since the original publication of this post. See the Seattle’s Oldest Bars page.]
Seattle’s Oldest Bars
1890 – Merchants Cafe
1892 – The Central Cafe/Saloon/Tavern (originally Watson Bros. Famous Restaurant, then “Seattle Bar” in 1901, and “Central Cafe” in 1919)
1890s – Doc Maynards Public House (refurbished 1890s pub, in the Pioneer Building, built 1891)
1907 – Jules Maes (building constructed in 1898, leased by Jules Maes himself in 1936)
This post continues the discussion of some of Seattle’s oldest bars in honor of the upcoming anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition (Sat. Dec 5).
The Oldest Bar in Seattle
Establishing the date of origin of Seattle’s oldest bars and determining which is the oldest bar in Seattle is a more complex undertaking than it may seem. Not only do a few of these dates rely on hearsay history or just dates written on old photos, but the decision is sometimes further complicated by a succession of different owners and businesses in the space, which may or may not have retained the name and may or may not have been bars at all. Of course if we require that an establishment has been continuously running as a (legal) bar, then none can date further back than the ratification of the 21st Amendment in December 1933. But I mark a contemporary bar’s start date as either 1) the earliest date a bar was established in the same physical space (regardless of any non-bar businesses intervening between then and now); or 2) the earliest date some location first used a continuously maintained business name. Let’s first discuss one of my favorite bars, and one which commonly makes the claim to Seattle’s oldest.
Jules Maes is fairly commonly reported as having been established in 1888, and ergo the oldest bar in Seattle’s current city limits. This date is displayed prominently in signs within the bar itself, and various media reports have Jules Maes himself running a saloon/speakeasy from the location since that date. However, I have found little evidence to confirm that claim, and based on the most comprehensive histories I could find, this cannot be true. The building was constructed in 1898, it was first a saloon in 1907, and it was first leased to Jules Maes in 1936 (Jules attended and/or owned other bars in the area in the early 1900s, but not earlier). Thus I see no credible way to date it back to 1888, and I count its date of origin as a bar on 1907. I do so even though it has not been a bar at all times since that date (of course no building was officially a bar through Prohibition) and even though Jules Maes himself did not lease it (and rename it) until 1936.
Even though I don’t count Jules as Seattle’s oldest, I do think that more than any other bar it does preserve that great vintage saloon feel. And I am delighted that it remains in business despite many scares, such as the time of its sale in 2000 when it was widely assumed that it would be shut down as a bar. And if any bar in Seattle would be haunted, surely it would be Jules Maes, which inspired a recent ghost story set in the joint written by Funi Daniels
The Pioneer Square Elders
If we place the start date of Jules Maes at 1907 or later, where does that leave the search for Seattle’s oldest bar? From what I can find, it leaves us smack in the middle of the tourists among the old Pioneer Square classics: Merchants Cafe (1890), the Central Saloon/Tavern (1892), Doc Maynards (1890s) and the J&M Cafe (1889-2009). Of course Merchants too claims to be the oldest bar in Seattle, and indeed the oldest restaurant on the West coast continually running in its current location. The claim looks fairly well-founded, although “continually running” should be used with caution, e.g. in 2006 the business was shut down for several months after the landlord evicted the owner and did some remodeling. Merchants arose, as we all know, out of the ashes of the Great Seattle Fire of 1889. It was designed by W. E. Boone (a direct descendent of Daniel Boone) in “a very pared down version of the Victorian style with elements of Richardsonian Romanesque/ early Chicago School.” (seattle.gov) Merchants’ history and its grand 30-foot bar make it a fine choice for your Repeal Day celebration.
Doc Maynard’s was not actually owned by Doc Maynard, but it is routinely refered to as occupying the refurbished space of an 1890s public house, and this seems quite credible given that it is in the Pioneer Building, which was built in 1891. Dating “Doc Maynard’s” itself back to the date of this earlier pub may be a bit questionable, but this is how I mark it given the guidelines described above. The Central was established in 1892 as “Watson Bros. Famous Restaurant,” and claims to be the “oldest saloon in Seattle,” (perhaps because Merchants refers to itself as a “cafe”?). Watson Bros. was renamed “The Seattle Bar” in 1901, and then again to the “Central Cafe” in 1919. And while it may not be particularly relevant to Prohibition, the Central of course played a much larger role in recent Seattle music history, as throughout the 80s it was the steadiest of a very small number of clubs that would regularly host interesting music, including many fondly remembered sets by the little known local bands Nirvana, Mudhoney, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden, as well as college station favorites like Sonic Youth and Janes Addiction.
The J&M Cafe could have made its own claim to being Seattle’s oldest bar. It was clearly in the recent location by 1906, and it is said that Messrs. Jamison and McFarland opened their bar in 1889 and moved it into the “new” location in 1902. The J&M Cafe didn’t attract a sort of crowd I prefer, but it always seemed packed on weekend nights, which made it all the more shocking when it closed earlier this year. While I won’t miss the frat-like crowd and the cover bands, I will miss its grand Austrian mahogany bar and cathedral ceilings. The J&M closing reminds us how suddenly these venerable establishments can disappear forever, so go out and support your local saloon on Repeal Day!
In honor of this Saturday’s anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition, we continue the discussion of the oldest bars in the Seattle area. This post again focuses on some of the lesser known historic bars of the area.
The Cabin – Est. 1933 – Shoreline
The Cabin is in a now suburban neighborhood where you’d never stumble upon it if you weren’t seeking it explicitly or lived next door. But it was a working port with a few summer homes when the structure was built in 1927, and when, in 1933 it received one of the first five or six post-prohibition liquor licenses in the state of Washington, and became what is now the oldest continually running business in Shoreline.
The Cabin has better than average tavern food, a good selection of beers and standard drinks, and a very nice patio area where you can see the sound. But what gives the place it’s essential character is the undulating floor and bar as the place has unevenly settled over the years after being moved on (and apparently left on) logs. The unique slant — which may make one feel wobbly even before your first drink — makes The Cabin well worth a drive to Richmond Beach.
Lake City’s Caroline Tavern is another three-quarters-of-a-century-old bar that is virtually hiding in a suburban neighborhood (on 15th Ave NE across from the Jackson Park golf course). The Caroline not only feels like a home, it very much looks like an ordinary home from the outside. They also snagged one of the earliest liquor licenses after Prohibition and has been serving ever since. Among those served is said to be the great Will Rogers, in 1935.
I could not find any real age information on the 5th Ave., but it is definitely one of Seattle’s oldest bars, and James, the bartender, was quite confident it dated back to very near the end of Prohibition. In any case, it’s worth a trip for the company and conversation, and for the trippy mural around the pool table in the back room.
Conveniently landing on a Saturday this year, December 5th marks the highpoint of the holiday season — the 76th anniversary of the ratification of the 21st Amendment and the repeal of Prohibition. Why not mark the occasion at one or two of Seattle’s oldest bars — establishments that have been around since the end of prohibition and sometimes longer? The Seattle area has a number of bars dating back to 1933 or 1934 (and earlier), and not all of them are in Pioneer Square or the Pike Place Market areas, or particularly well known.
Let’s begin with some historical sites that even many long-time locals tend to miss.
The Double Header – 407 2nd Ave – Bar since 1934
Seattle now has the second largest LBGT community in the U.S., but relatively few people recognize that hidden behind an undistinguished dive exterior in Pioneer Square is a bar that once was the gay mecca of the west coast, and which has a solid claim to be the oldest continually running gay bar in the country. “Mecca” perhaps more aptly applied to the bar downstairs, the infamous “Casino” in the space currently occupied by Heavens nightclub, and the Double Header has not been dominated by gay patrons since gay culture shifted to Capitol Hill in the 70s. But it retains a mixed, if smaller, straighter, and more sedate crowd, and remains a silent testament to drag queens dancing on tables, the occasional fights between lesbians and visiting sailors, and celebrity visitors from Rudolph Nureyev to Johnny Ray to Margot Fonteyn to Tallulah Bankhead (who is said to have entered ringing a cowbell and shouting, “Avon calling all you beautiful mother ****ers!”
Here is a snippet from HistoryLink.org, which quotes from Paulson and Simpson’s “An evening at the Garden of Allah:”
In most cities, men were not allowed to dance together. The Casino paid Seattle policemen “protection money” and there men danced happily with other men. Nicknamed “Madame Peabody’s Dancing Academy for Young Ladies,” the Casino was considered the most open place for gays on the West Coast. Shortly after the Casino opened, a new patron, Vilma (1912-1993) visited the Pool Room. “Vilma,” one of Seattle’s “best known gay men,” arrived in Seattle in 1930. He worked in the Double Header Tavern, a gay bar, on the weekends until the illness that led to his death in 1993. He was interviewed in the early 1990s. Following is a description of his first visit:
“Two friends of mine [had] visited Seattle and raved about it. That’s all I heard, Seattle, Seattle, Seattle and this fabulous place called the Casino and all the neat kids there…. The Casino was the only place on the West Coast that was so open and free for gay people. But John [Delevitti] paid off the police; he was good at working the payoff system.”
More on Seattle’s oldest bars over the next few days.