skip navigation
Support KUOW
Listen to KUOW News

Audio not available.

KUOW News on Demand

KUOW News

Drinking on the Duwamish

09/26/2007

New nightlife regulations on the table at city hall have many Seattleites concerned that bars need to be safer. But one south Seattle neighborhood took the matter into its own hands, transforming a drug–ridden corner into a place for neighborhood get–togethers. In today's segment of Life on the Duwamish, producer Jessica Partnow is taking us out for a beer – at what used to be the scariest corner in South Park.

TRANSCRIPT

THE COUNTY LINE BAR IS IN A RUNDOWN WOODEN BUILDING RIGHT NEXT TO THE SOUTH PARK BRIDGE. IT WAS THE OLD FEED STORE BACK WHEN FARMING WAS SOUTH PARK'S MAIN INDUSTRY. TODAY IT'S THE QUINTESSENTIAL DIVE BAR COMPLETE WITH PULL TABS AND COMMITTED ALL–DAY REGULARS.

CLEMENT: "You walk in, any hour of the day and there are people sitting at this bar."

HAPPY HOUR STARTS AT 6 A.M. I'M HERE WITH JOEL CLEMENT, SOUTH PARK RESIDENT AND SELF–PROCLAIMED COUNTY LINE REGULAR, AT 8 O'CLOCK ON A FRIDAY. THAT'S P.M.

PARTNOW: "So what's your drink?"

CLEMENT: "Uh. I drink a Bud."

THE TABLES ARE ALREADY FILLING UP AS WE GRAB THE LAST EMPTY BAR STOOL AND A COUPLE OF COLD BEERS. I HAVE REVEALED MYSELF TO BE HOPELESSLY UNINITIATED BY ORDERING A MICROBREW. BUT JOEL IS PERFECTLY AT EASE, JOKING AROUND WITH THE BARTENDER AND SEEMING TO KNOW JUST ABOUT EVERYBODY.

JOEL HASN'T ALWAYS FELT SO COMFORTABLE HERE. HE DIDN'T EVEN COME INSIDE FOR MONTHS AFTER HE MOVED IN A FEW BLOCKS AWAY. IT WASN'T THE BAR ITSELF, BUT THE STREET OUTSIDE THE BAR THAT REALLY SCARED HIM OFF.

CLEMENT: "In front of the bar, on the porch, in the street out front across the street was just an open air drug and prostitution bazaar. All day long. This wasn't like a late night thing."

PARTNOW: "I can't even picture really what that looks like."

CLEMENT: "Money going back and forth, baggies going back and forth, you know the girls waiting and then going off with the guys. Like really [laughs] sort of what you'd imagine if there were no laws."

THERE WERE LAWS. JUST NOBODY AROUND TO ENFORCE THEM. THE BAR IS IN A LITTLE STRIP OF LAND CALLED THE SLIVER BY THE RIVER, WHICH IS OFFICIALLY OUTSIDE THE SEATTLE CITY LIMITS. ON ONE SIDE OF THE STREET YOU'RE IN SEATTLE. ON THE OTHER YOU'RE IN KING COUNTY – WHERE SEATTLE POLICE DIDN'T HAVE JURISDICTION. DRUG DEALERS WOULD ESCAPE THE COPS JUST BY CROSSING THE STREET.

A DECADE AGO, THERE WERE A LOT OF BARS IN SOUTH PARK. I TALKED TO A COUNTY LINE REGULAR WHO HAS ENJOYED THEM ALL.

JOHN: "La Cantina was up there, opened in the 90s I'm sure and then uh Murdock's, I had a few drinks down here. Smelled ripe you know, I mean good old school place you know and."

HUNDREDS OF BOEING WORKERS AND TRUCK DRIVERS COME THROUGH SOUTH PARK EVERY DAY. YOU MIGHT THINK THERE WOULD BE TAVERNS LINING THE MAIN DRAG, OFFERING UP A COLD BEER ON THE WAY HOME FROM WORK.

BUT THE BARS HERE HAVE MOSTLY CLOSED DOWN. THERE ARE SO FEW BUSINESSES HERE THAT RESIDENTS TEND TO GO ELSEWHERE FOR EVERYTHING. THE SOUTH PARK BRIDGE HAS BEEN SLATED FOR REHAB FOR YEARS, A LOOMING CONSTRUCTION PROJECT THAT'S SCARED OFF NEW INVESTORS.

SOMEHOW THE COUNTY LINE HELD ON. BUT JOEL STILL HADN'T GONE IN.

PARTNOW: "Did it take you a while to get up the nerve to go there?"

CLEMENT: "Yeah. Yeah. It was just, it looked so thuggy outside by the time I was in the hood here that um you know, I just didn't it just..."

I THINK HE'S A LITTLE EMBARRASSED TO TALK ABOUT IT...

CLEMENT: "Eventually, you know, a friend here mentioned it, said let's go in and uh you know kinda bust through the gauntlet."

THEY DID, AND JOEL ENDED UP HAVING A GREAT TIME THAT NIGHT. AND IT GOT HIM THINKING. MAYBE THERE WERE OTHER PEOPLE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD THAT WERE MISSING OUT ON THIS PLACE, JUST LIKE HE HAD.

HE STARTED SENDING EMAILS AROUND, TRYING TO BRING MORE PEOPLE IN DURING THE WEEK. SUDDENLY MONDAY NIGHTS BECAME THE BAR'S BUSIEST TIME.

CLEMENT: "I think the cops were impressed with that? That the neighbors were willing to actually go in, and you know, support the place instead of just condemning it."

THE CITY AND THE COUNTY FINALLY FOUND A WAY TO POLICE THE SLIVER BY THE RIVER – TOGETHER. WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT ACTUALLY RESPONDING TO CALLS, THE SIDEWALK OUTSIDE THE BAR STARTED TO LOOK A LOT MORE LIKE THE REST OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD.

JUST DOWN THE STREET IS ANOTHER HISTORIC SOUTH PARK BAR. UNTIL A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO KELLY'S TAVERN WAS A COZY LITTLE IRISH PUB. NOW IT'S ONE OF A DOZEN EMPTY RAMSHACKLE OLD BUILDINGS THAT LINE 14TH AVENUE SOUTH. WHEN SOME KIDS WERE STILL PLAYING HOUSE, SCOTT HORRELL WAS TENDING BAR.

HORRELL: "I always wanted a bar. I had a bar set up in my basement in the 7th grade. I bought a bar at a garage sale, and we had a pool table in the basement and I just had it set up, you know? We didn't have drinks or anything but. Hahaha..."

HE LOOKS TIRED: HE'S BEEN PUTTING IN A LOT OF HOURS GETTING THE OLD TAVERN INTO SHAPE. HE PLANS TO RE–OPEN, AS LORETTA'S, IN THE FALL. HIS VOICE IS ALWAYS A LITTLE HOARSE, BUT I THINK IT'S WORSE THAN USUAL TODAY. BUT HIS EXCITEMENT AND PRIDE IN THE NEW PLACE ARE OBVIOUS.

HORRELL: [mumbling about screwdriver]

PARTNOW: "So it's gonna be food and drinks?"

HORRELL: "Yeah it's actually gonna be like an actual like full on, [walking inside] it's really tiny but a restaurant believe it or not. This is the kitchen. So it's just gonna be like a 12 foot kitchen line. [footsteps] This is actually the bar floor so basically the edge there, all the way down to the to that wall there. So it's really small."

IT'S REALLY SMALL, BUT LORETTA'S IS GOING TO BE VERY DIFFERENT FROM THE COUNTY LINE. AND IT'S CHANGING FAST.

JUST A WEEK LATER THE PLACE HAS GONE FROM PILES OF CONSTRUCTION SUPPLIES AND HALF–MADE FURNITURE TO THE BASIC OUTLINE OF A SUPER HIP BAR. THERE'S A PATIO OUT BACK THAT'S ALMOST AS BIG AS THE BAR INSIDE, DOMINATED BY A SHINY SILVER AIRSTREAM TRAILER. THE WOODEN WALLS ARE DECORATED WITH INDUSTRIAL ART: A GIGANTIC COLLAGE OF ORANGE LIFE PRESERVERS BRIGHTENS UP THE BACK ROOM. NOT EXACTLY A WORKING CLASS DIVE.

SOME SOUTH PARK RESIDENTS SEE A NEW BAR LIKE LORETTA'S AS THE FIRST SIGN OF LOOMING GENTRIFICATION. BUT SCOTT THINKS HIS PLACE WILL HAVE A POSITIVE IMPACT ON THE NEIGHBORHOOD.

HORRELL: "Bars come first, and and then it's safer to walk down the street. You know like, at 2 in the morning, Georgetown 5 years ago you – there was nothing, you didn't want to be on the street cause – people are driving down there looking for drugs and hookers. And now at 2 in the morning there's a row of doormen that you can look down the street. So really it's sort of like a private security force you know."

GEORGETOWN IS JUST ACROSS THE RIVER FROM SOUTH PARK. IT'S BEEN GETTING PRETTY POPULAR LATELY, AND SOME REGULARS HAVE ALREADY GIVEN UP ON THE NEIGHBORHOOD.

KATE: "Oh my God it's the end. It's Fremont now."

MELISSA: "What it is now is what South Park will be in like 3 years I would say."

SCOTT'S MOTIVATION FOR COMING TO SOUTH PARK IS COMPLICATED. IN SOME WAYS HE'S A PIONEER, BUILDING IN THE NEXT UNDISCOVERED PLACE. BUT HE'S ALSO HERE BECAUSE SOUTH PARK IS RELATIVELY CHEAP. HE COULDN'T HAVE AFFORDED A BUILDING IN A NEIGHBORHOOD THAT'S ALREADY OFFICIALLY HIP. THE HOPE, OF COURSE, IS THAT SOUTH PARK WILL BECOME OFFICIALLY HIP.

HORRELL: "If I open up and I just play my own game, I don't care what the guy next to me does, but if I just do it really well and they see me making money they'll want to make money too and you know it's the way it works. And the I guess that's gentrification but whatever. Huh, you know?"

FOR RIGHT NOW, SOUTH PARK HAS THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS. NEW BUSINESSES ARE OPENING UP AND CRIME IS GOING DOWN. AND SO FAR IT'S STILL AFFORDABLE TO LIVE HERE.

SWING MAN: "We go uh West coast swing. And there's a group of us that hang out together, we're not a club it's just a bunch of friends that keep in touch all the time."

THE COUNTY LINE'S GOT THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS RIGHT NOW TOO. IT'S GOT TO BE THE ONLY PLACE IN SEATTLE WHERE THE BEER IS CHEAP, THE MUSIC'S GOOD, AND YOU'RE JUST AS LIKELY TO FIND EDGY HIPSTER TWENTYSOMETHINGS AS YOU ARE A TABLE FULL OF SENIOR CITIZENS NURSING MIXED DRINKS OUT OF PINT GLASSES.

PARTNOW: "So how often do you come to the County Line?"

SWING MAN: "Every Tuesday. Yeah. Every Tuesday you know and they come from Kirkland, Bellevue, Tacoma, all over the place, you know and uh. So anyway we just hang out from one sleaze bar to the other! Hahahha!"

IN SOUTH PARK'S SLIVER BY THE RIVER, I'M JESSICA PARTNOW FOR KUOW 949 SEATTLE.

© Copyright 2007, KUOW News

11.14.18

Schedules

spacer