Slog Music

Music, Nightlife,
and Drinks

Friday, March 6, 2009

State Nukes Seattle Nightclub For $99 TV Dinners

Posted by on Fri, Mar 6, 2009 at 2:26 PM

The Washington State Liquor Board (WSLCB) is working to shut down a Wallingford nightclub for dancing around the state's liquor regulations.

On November 18th, the WSLCB sent a letter to the owners of the Babalu Mambo Lounge—located at 1723 N 45th St—informing them that the state was pulling their liquor license for failing “to act as a bonafide restaurant.”

State liquor laws require all bars—which are technically licensed as restaurants—to prepare and serve full meals to customers for several hours a day.

According to documents provided by the city attorney’s office—which filed an objection to Babalu’s liquor license renewal last April—Babalu’s menu at one point consisted of five “1950’s TV Dinners,” including The Babalu Chicken Pot Pie, Lucy Light Fish Fillets, the Desi Arnaz Hungry Man, the Fred Mertz Salisbury Steak and Ricky Ricardo Spaghetti & Meatballs, all priced at a whopping $99.95 each. State law requires bars and clubs to have a kitchen and a cook on staff, who actually prepares food on site.

Along with the overpriced menu items, the city attorney’s office has also cited several other reasons for objecting to Babalu's license renewal. The city's letter to the WSLCB also notes complaints from neighbors about the club’s noisy and sometimes violent crowds, and a 2007 citation by the city for failing to attain the proper zoning permits for the bar, which is smack in the middle of a relatively quiet residential neighborhood.

Babalu’s owners have appealed the WSLCB’s decision—the bar’s management could not be reached for comment—and the case will have a hearing some time this summer.

Babalu certainly isn’t the first bar to skirt the state’s food requirement laws. I won’t name names, but I can think of at least two or three bars I regularly frequent that don’t have anything resembling a kitchen, and I know of at least two other bars that have also had outrageously priced microwaved food on their menus, presumably in order to satisfy the state’s liquor law requirements.

As I wrote last month, a bill working its way through the state legislature could soon create a special nightclub license, which would allow bars to forgo food service requirements and stay out of sticky situations like the one Babalu is currently in.


Comments (32) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
It's funny how the whole thing is a farce, in that, they don't really expect anyone to buy the TV dinners but they're required to have them available - but they still use the selling tactic of pricing them at $99.95 to make them look less expensive than $100
Posted by Urgutha Forka on March 6, 2009 at 2:36 PM · Report this
if babalu's isn't a mob front i don't know what is...
Posted by bing on March 6, 2009 at 2:37 PM · Report this
I became curious about this last year when I was looking into starting a bar. I know lots of places bars that don't have any food on the menu. I figured surely there was a liquor license that allowed this, but I couldn't find any information about it. Is this a recent regulation that allows older establishments to be grandfathered in? I don't know-- I could name several recently opened establishments with full beer/wine/liquor service but no food.
Posted by kai on March 6, 2009 at 2:44 PM · Report this
Bars without food suck anyway. I wouldn't be sad to see this one shut down.
Posted by Greg on March 6, 2009 at 2:55 PM · Report this
That place was kinda sketchy (although not in a divey kind of way) but goddamnit they had a ridiculously good cucmber mojito.
Posted by Queen of Sleaze on March 6, 2009 at 2:58 PM · Report this

SFAIA, there's no such "grandfathering clause", as ALL establishments that serve liquor are SUPPOSED to have food service as well. The lengths that SOME bars go to tip-toe around this requirement, however, are frankly ludicrous: for example, offering a "menu" that is essentially take-out from a neighboring establishment is just one such dodge; the offering of microwave-entrees-at-outrageous-prices being yet another; as is setting up a hot dog stand outside your bar. There are literally dozens of similar "cheats" that for the most part WSLCB has turned a blind eye toward, unless some other violation comes up that's simply too egregious to ignore.

It's a stupid, pointless anachronism from when the state Restaurant Association basically ran the WSLCB, and should have been dispensed with at the same time restaurants lost their monopoly on liquor sales-by-the-drink.
Posted by COMTE on March 6, 2009 at 3:02 PM · Report this
Sorry, meant for @3...
Posted by COMTE on March 6, 2009 at 3:02 PM · Report this
have a brew, have a screw, babalu!!! that place is douche bag heaven!!! pop your collar and get ready to douche out!
Posted by drrrrnnnn on March 6, 2009 at 3:12 PM · Report this
Thanks, COMTE. Maybe I need to start a hot dog stand instead.
Posted by kai on March 6, 2009 at 3:14 PM · Report this
Babalu has been fucking dreadful the couple of times I've ventured in there, but this has more to do with Washington's archaic and puritan liquor laws, than any fault of Babalu's.
Posted by Babalu the Wonder Bar on March 6, 2009 at 3:19 PM · Report this
Babalu sucks. The WSLCB sucks. There are no good guys here.
Posted by MyNameIsNobody on March 6, 2009 at 3:32 PM · Report this
O where will all the Cougars go to hunt their prey?
Posted by Raven on March 6, 2009 at 3:38 PM · Report this
LOL @12.

Seriously, though, why do they deserve special consideration?

Everyone else follows the law, right?
Posted by Will in Seattle on March 6, 2009 at 3:45 PM · Report this
in the middle of a quiet residential neighborhood?

it's in the middle of Wallingford's commercial strip on 45th...there's very little residential on that part of the street. It's not Broadway vibrant/noisy but there's quite a lot of streetlife there.
Posted by michael strangeways on March 6, 2009 at 3:49 PM · Report this
It just brings to mind this sort of scenario:

"Thank You, Thank You... You've been a great audience, oh and hey, you ever here the one about Castro, the Priest, the Goat and the Hula-Hoop? Well, maybe next time. But seriously, try the Little Ricky Veal at only $99 smackaroonies ,it truly is the most succulent piece of young flesh you'll have at that price. And remember to schlep your waitress. Goodnight."

Posted by Lucy, Lucy I'mmm Home, wheres my dinner Gringa? on March 6, 2009 at 4:19 PM · Report this
The old liquor laws required that an actual percentage of revenues come from food sales. That gave us some hilarious joints. The old Sonya's with its $6.99 rib steaks, Hana Teriyaki, and most memorable, the "banquet" at Neighbours (which permitted them to allocate all the cover charge to food). My husband actually used to eat the shit they put out there. I'm sure some day it will save me a bundle when I don't have to embalm his corpse.
Posted by gay dad on March 6, 2009 at 4:26 PM · Report this
In the old days the banquet at Neighbors was not bad, especially when I'd driven down from Vancouver BC and hadn't eaten since lunch ...

At some point it went downhill, mind you.
Posted by Will in Seattle on March 6, 2009 at 4:28 PM · Report this
During the day you can usually see a Rolls Royce parked in front (on Wallingford Ave) with only the back license plate - not the front plate. And never a ticket. I've always wondered who it was and why they got a pass on the front plate?
Posted by MyDogBen on March 6, 2009 at 4:31 PM · Report this
when o when will WA state grow the fuck up?

get rid of this retarded requirement for a liquor license, get rid of the state liquor stores.

Posted by Jesus Fucking Christ on March 6, 2009 at 4:40 PM · Report this
Never been to Babalu, but every time I drive down 45th, I wish their flashing lights out front were a little less Vegas/Sunset Strip.
Posted by snakes on March 6, 2009 at 4:47 PM · Report this
Whatever happened to Spot Bagel?
Posted by DOUG. on March 6, 2009 at 5:02 PM · Report this

Hey, it could be worse - this could be Pennsylvania, where you can't even fucking BUY BEER OR WINE in a grocery store.

See kids, Seattle/WA isn't the worst fucking hell-hole in the U.S. You-all just have to get out more.
Posted by COMTE on March 6, 2009 at 6:17 PM · Report this
Until 1968, in Washington taverns could not have windows that opened onto a sidewalk, and women had to be seated at a table to be served a drink.
Posted by wow on March 6, 2009 at 6:39 PM · Report this
We've got our theory over in Wallyhood:…
Posted by Wallyhood on March 6, 2009 at 7:50 PM · Report this
The WSLCB used to believe that food service helped sober you up by diluting the alcohol. They have since discovered that food only slows the absorption rate of the alcohol (i.e., you're going to get just as drunk, only later and will probably have a few more drinks than you might have otherwise had).

So they've backed off the food requirements considerably. Except for when the City decides to make an example of a place. Then, the WSLCB is the City's bitch and does whatever the City wants.
Posted by NapoleonXIV on March 6, 2009 at 8:40 PM · Report this
Why, for the ten millionth time, do we even HAVE a liquor control board? Jeez, even in Iowa this sort of civic theater died off in Iowa thirty years ago.
Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay on March 6, 2009 at 9:41 PM · Report this
Lordy, my last comment was redundant. Obviously, the Washington State Liquor control board isn't doing their job insofar as controlling MY liquor....

Here's my modest proposal, particularly relevant in these times of economic shortfalls. (Are you listening, Governor?)

Close the liquor stores - or sell them as turnkey businesses. Let the grocery stores sell booze - let them sell it until 2am, and let them do it on Sundays.

Let problems relating to alcohol be handled by the local municipalities. Need a law about booze? Call the legislature.

Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay on March 7, 2009 at 8:22 AM · Report this
As much as I would LOVE for Babalu to close I feel they might just open up a small kitchen just to renew their licence. Babalu is like a bad weed in Wallingford. Before it was Wonderbar, now Babalu. You can cut down the weed bu it will keep growing. I wouldn't be surprised if they had strippers in their or in the basement or something. Babablu needs to relocate to Belltown. Out with Babalu-in with a brewery or restaurant! Because Babalu does pretty well on the weekends now Salina's has salsa dancing. And now 45th and wallingford is like sleaze heaven. All I hear all night long outside my window is "You my thug, bitch you my thug". Get out of hear!!!
Posted by urban-wallingfordie on March 7, 2009 at 11:46 AM · Report this
I hope that bill passes.
Posted by Trevor on March 7, 2009 at 1:34 PM · Report this
I played music there when it was the Wonder Bar ("Wonder Bra"). Unless the owner has changed a lot, I think all the bad features of the place can be explained by the owner's (the "Babalunatic") situation and personality. He told me that his parents have owned the building for a long time. At the time he lived upstairs. I recall hearing that his father is a well-heeled surgeon. He also told me that he once was a pro tennis player -- looking at him that was obviously a long time ago. He now has nothing going with his life and the place did seem to be his social life. Apparently he created the kind of place that would attract the people he wants to have around.

His competence in the business was obviously nill, and his treatment of us as a band was uniquely low. Having had a regular night for a couple of months, a guy working there (maybe the manager, but who could tell?) told me the chief had another band coming in the following week. No problem, that's their business, we'd had a run. But when I asked if that was one week and they want us back the following, he did not know. Calling in the next week several times, somehow they were never able to answer that question.

So, an incompetent, lunatic, spoiled rich kid opened a stupid bar in his daddy's building. His right to try, but I do hope they find a way to get rid of him.
Posted by mc on March 30, 2009 at 10:36 AM · Report this

That's all I have to say. Carry On.
Posted by Get this place outta here on June 9, 2010 at 1:00 PM · Report this
Good Riddance! I worked at Babalu (aka the Wonderbar) for almost a year. The owner and "manager" is sleezy and doesn't have any common sense whatsoever. Inventory control is spotty, they don't pay employees on time - and when they finally pay up its cash under the table. After a fight broke out one "Salsa" night, I had to shove the guys outside (no employed security). I had a knife pulled on me and was called a liar and fired by the boss after he "walked outside and asked around" and no one admitted to it.

They used have the staff of the Hawaiian Restaurant next door wonder in once a night with Menu's...

Its a complete joke and a surprise it took this long for the WSLB to finally get involved.
Posted by Kerstan on June 9, 2010 at 1:37 PM · Report this

Add a comment


Want great deals and a chance to win tickets to the best shows in Seattle? Join The Stranger Presents email list!

All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC
1535 11th Ave (Third Floor), Seattle, WA 98122
Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Takedown Policy