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Monday, July 16, 2007

Pizza and Petty Covers Menace Alki!

posted by on July 16 at 12:00 PM

Speaking of the mayor’s war on nightlife, I happened to spend some time this weekend out on Alki, where two establishments—Slices, a small pizza shop, and the Celtic Swell, an Irish bar—ran into trouble with the mayor’s anti-nightlife goons almost exactly one year ago. Residents of the apartments directly above the Swell complained about noise from the bar, prompting the city to demand that its owners obtain a special license to sell booze after 10:00 pm and sign a “good-neighbor agreement” with the city. As for Slices, here’s what I reported a year ago:

Slices’ troubles with the city started earlier this year, when the pizza shop applied for a license to serve beer and wine. Some residents argued that the pizza joint would turn into a “beer garden” and contribute to public drunkenness, noise, litter, and underage drinking, according to the West Seattle Herald. (Because the restaurant is partly outdoors, some neighbors believe patrons would be able to pass beer to minors on the street. And no, we’re not making that up.) In response, the city attorney’s office has written a letter to the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) opposing Slices’ liquor license unless Slices owners Patrick Henley and Tom Lin sign a good-neighbor agreement of their own. In the past 24 years, the liquor board has never granted a liquor license to which the city objected. “It seemed pretty basic for a pizzeria to get a beer and wine license,” Henley says.

I went by Slices around 9:30 on Saturday night, and, like the last time I stopped by hoping for a slice after dark, it was closed. (Guess the city decided that pizza and beer don’t go together after all.) The Celtic Swell, in contrast, was jammed with large groups of mid-20s men and women on the prowl. The women wore gobs of makeup and tight sexy-casual clothes; the guys wore wrinkled khakis, ball caps, and bored expressions. The live music, which consisted of a Tom Petty-loving neo-hippie with a guitar, was more lousy than loud, and once we went outside, we couldn’t hear it.

Yes, I can imagine that if you lived right above a bar like the Celtic Swell, you might be able to hear its patrons occasionally. However, the idea that these two establishments are in any way a threat to Alki’s “peace and quiet” is laughable. In the summer, Alki is crowded with throngs of people from all over Seattle, from cackling teens to shrieking babies to wannabe gangstas blasting hiphop from souped-up Hondas. It is not, in short, a quiet place. Targeting small businesses isn’t going to make it so.

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The last online story I read about Tabella in the Stranger featured a big old banner ad from ... you guessed it ... Tabella! Wonder how much the club owners pay the Stranger in advertising. Much more than Erica's salary, I'm guessing.

Posted by Nancy Drew II | July 16, 2007 12:41 PM

Fuck 'em. Close 'em down if they can't be decent neighbors.

Posted by ecce homo | July 16, 2007 12:43 PM

NDII: Wow. You mean papers sell ads? And then sometimes reporters write about advertisers? How DARE they! Thank you so much for that incredibly incisive observation. I will immediately stop covering any company or politician that advertises with the Stranger. You have shown me the light.

Posted by ECB | July 16, 2007 12:50 PM

I live right behind Slices. I really don't mind it and they are actually pretty good neighbors. It's the kids that then leave Slices and come over to Whale Tail park aka my front lawn, late at night which piss me off.

Posted by ACOZ | July 16, 2007 12:55 PM

Thank you so much for going to the Celtic Swell on Saturday night instead of Friday.

I somehow got roped into playing there the previous night, we sucked, and I'm much happier to be reading about someone else's lousy performance than my own!

Glad to see EH is spreading his love on this topic as well. Maybe he should start his own idea bank and run for office?

Posted by thanks | July 16, 2007 1:08 PM

erica: i was having a late dinner with a friend that same night, down the street at cactus. our little stroll by the water afterward included a soundtrack from the guitar wielding hippie at the celtic swell.

dude busted out the all-time cheesiest Grunge Years (TM) anthem, hunger strike by temple of the dog, followed by two terrible soundgarden and pearl jam covers.

my neighborhood never ceases to amuse me.

Posted by kerri harrop | July 16, 2007 1:12 PM

if you want the quiet sounds of rural life... don't live in the city. to expect silence makes you the bad neighbor.

to think that because you can afford a place on alki that no one else should be allowed to enjoy it in the way they want to is equally ridiculous.

Posted by infrequent | July 16, 2007 1:15 PM


Your irrational dislike of the mayor has made your "advocacy journalism" more unbearable than usual.

This is what I can gather from your screed about the "mayor's war on nightlife" in this case:
Neighbors complain or have concerns about new businesses opening in the area and the city responds. What thugs! What goons! To actual respond to neighbors concerns!

The result of this "war on nightlife?" Celtic Swell appears to be booming, and Slices is still in business a year later - not bad in an industry with a high rate of 1st year failures.

And is Slices closing before 10:00 because of the city's requirements, or because of some other business considerations. Hell if we know, because in your form of journalism, your either didn't ask for the facts, or didn't bother to include them. For that matter, are they selling beer or not?

Posted by elrider | July 16, 2007 1:20 PM


I highly doubt that Tabella's annual advertising spending with the Stranger is anywhere near what Erica earns as a writer. Futhermore, the notion that there is a correlation between the two is even funnier. I bet that the writing staff and the advertising division don't even have that much interaction.

Posted by rob | July 16, 2007 1:24 PM

maybe if we embraced drunkeness and looked down on the childish behavior instead we could get a little culture in this paranoid, intolerant country.

on the other hand, a "good neighbor" agreement sounds pretty tame... why couldn't they just do that?

on the other other hand though, what's with these nimby'ers thinking they live in smalltown america? you'd think you wanted to live in a place like seattle for a little culture. ooo wine with pizza how exotic...

Posted by Cale | July 16, 2007 1:27 PM

Someone sounds a little defensive. Just count the number of club ads in the paper and online. You criticize the influence of big biz on mainstream news outlets, but by gosh it just couldn't happen at the Stranger! Classic. Maybe the publisher can volunteer the percentage of revenue the paper gets from clubs. Do tell!

Posted by Nancy Drew II | July 16, 2007 1:55 PM

good neighbor agreements sound funny to me. people wanting extra protection beyond the law... isn't that what the laws are for? i certainly wouldn't force a business to sign one. it might be nice of them to agree to it, or at least listen to the concerns. but the law was set to regulate this behavior. if neighbors don't like it, change the law.

Posted by infrequent | July 16, 2007 2:13 PM

Nancy Drew,

I don't disagree with you. Anyone can see that the Stranger is filled with ads for clubs / bars / venues... that's not a surprise. I'd imagine their local advertising revunue is 50 -75% from this category.

However, what you are insinuating is that there is a correlation betweeen the content of the paper and the advertsing revenue, which is a bit far fetched if you ask me.

Posted by rob | July 16, 2007 2:48 PM

If the Stranger just acted as a mouthpiece for it's advertisers, wouldn't we be reading a lot more articles advocating legalized prostitution?

Posted by elswinger | July 16, 2007 3:55 PM

"It is not, in short, a quiet place."

Perhaps you should visit Alki more than once a year. Try October-February.

Posted by bbking | July 16, 2007 5:17 PM

bbking: I have been to Alki in the winter. That's not when people complain about the music/noise/potential liquor violations because of outdoor patios. They complain in the summer when the doors and windows are open, and when people are sitting out on patios.

Posted by ECB | July 16, 2007 5:21 PM

The issue at Alki goes way beyond "nightlife." The issue is whether the residents of a community can have a say in how their community is developed. Does all the power rest in the hands of the developers hoping to make money or does the community have a voice? The stranger is siding with the money-making developers as long as they are developing nightlife.

Posted by KD | July 16, 2007 7:37 PM

And another issue is whether zoning regulations mean a damn thing in this city? And another issue is whether restaurants can close their kitchens at 10 pm and turn into bars, 21-over only please, rocking out the neighborhood as if they owned the beach and to hell with anyone trying to sleep, in spite of the fact that the neighbors were there first and bars are not allowed at Alki except through special permits that would mitigate some of the negative impacts? Where's the real journalistic reporting? Did anyone bother to find out whether restaurant-bars at Alki have conditional use permits? Did anyone bother to scratch the surface to find out what's really going on? The fact that someone visited Alki one night and found it to be pretty quiet is NOT a news story. The fact that a reporter, without researching the facts, accuses the neighbors of "targeting small businesses," is what's really laughable. No, wait. It's disgusting. There's a story there, but your reporter missed it all together. And that gives the Stranger zero credibility.

Posted by chasm | July 17, 2007 12:44 AM

The Stranger: Putting the yellow back in journalism, since 1991.

Posted by A-Chan | July 17, 2007 2:26 AM

The "Good Neighbor Agreements" are a way for the city to unilaterally force new regulations on businesses without having to go through that pesky law-making business. They're "voluntary" in the sense that protection money to the mafia is "voluntary".

"Nice liquor license you got here. It'd be terrible if something were to happen to it..."

Posted by Aexia | July 17, 2007 3:21 PM

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