Bars where Pete has had a Drink (5,812 bars; 1,754 bars in Seattle) - Click titles below for Lists:

Bars where Pete has had a drink

Thursday, March 12, 2009

#778 - Oliver's (Mayflower Hotel), Seattle (downtown) - 3/12/2009

Oliver's is one of those rare fine bars that out-of-towners may know better than the locals.  It has classic hotel bar touches -- high ceilings, maritime sconces, and big curtained windows looking out on a busy part of downtown.  It also has the sort of cocktails that make the crowd, beyond the serendipitous hotel visitors, comprised largely of mixologists from other bars looking for a quiet, quality cocktail away from any thongs of hipsters and foodies. It is also the first bar in Seattle where passersby could see bartenders making cocktails, and it was situated in the location of the first hotel cocktail bar in the city.

Some Oliver's history via the Seattle Times:
    'When Oliver's opened on June 26, 1976, it was one of the most controversial bar debuts in Seattle. The state had just lifted an esoteric law that banned cocktail lounges from having windows (to prevent the public from seeing folks imbibing). Oliver's put in floor-to-ceiling pane windows to showcase its bar in all its glory. "There were some ticked-off women," said Steve Johansson, the beverage director for the bar and hotel. "Women would walk by and say, 'Oh my God! Look at that. They're drinking and smoking at the bar.' "  Those scandalous windows now serve as one of the city's great people-watching spots downtown, especially during Christmas, when you can see the 12-story-high Christmas tree across the street.

    The view is majestic when there are snowflakes floating and Christmas carols in the air. In 1977, Oliver's hired a lad named Murray Stenson, who went on to become one of America's most respected bartenders. Stenson will serve as guest bartender at Oliver's on Thursday. Oliver's, said Stenson, "may have been the first bar in the city to have an espresso machine at the bar. It was a spectacular, 4-foot-tall, copper and brass Italian espresso maker."'
Note that the window law applied strictly to hard liquor, as much older bars like the Central Tavern had unobstructed windows.

The previous bar, the Carousel Room (compete with merry-go-round horses hanging from the ceiling) was the first to take advantage of 1948's Initiative 171 allowing hotels, restaurants, trains, boats and clubs (but not taverns) to sell liquor by the glass (Class H licenses), and thereby became Seattle's first licensed cocktail bar since prohibition.  (See

405 Olive Way, Seattle, WA 98101 - (206) 623-8700
Est. June 26, 1976 - Building constructed: 1927
Previous bars in this location: None (Bartell Drugs 1929-1946, The Carousel Room 1949-1974)

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