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Sunday, July 15, 2012

#1742 #S1018 - Pine Box, Seattle - 4/2/2012

For infidels like me, one of the greatest contributions of human religions is that it led people to create these beautiful buildings -- buildings we would never create today -- which can eventually be put to the more productive use of dispensing liquor.

(Photo: Joe Mabel, Wikimedia Commons)
In 1892, Edgar Ray Butterworth moved his funeral business from Centerville, WA (now Centralia) to Seattle.  He'd been a mayor, state legislator, and a furniture maker when a black diphtheria epidemic led him into the coffin and burial business. He built the Butterworth building on 1st Avenue, which later hosted Cafe Sophie and a number of other bars and bistros, and is currently being remodeled into a new location for Kell's Irish Pub. In 1923 the business moved to a building on the corner of Melrose and Pine. By the time his heirs sold the business in 1998, it was one of the longest running family owned business in Seattle history.

In Oct. 2003 the old chapel portion of the mortuary hosted "The Chapel," a bar where the typical nightclub clamor seemed to be amplified by the marble and high ceilings, and which had a liveliness that made the business's demise take me by surprise. It was not my crowd, but it was a fun place on the right nights, and I loved the setting.

Thankfully, the space has been taken over by some beer lovers, led by Ian Roberts, who founded Seattle Beer Week and previously managed the Fremont beer mecca "Brouwer's." Indeed, the space is more stately now, notwithstanding the plasma screens listing the fast rotating selections on their 33 taps. And while I did not try this myself, they include a "Randall tap," which infuses the beer with flavors from ingredients like smoked wood chips, hops, etc. And if you don't happen to be in the mood for beer, as I and my friends attending this night were not, after attending a lecture by Daniel Okrent on his fine book on prohibition, their are spirits available and capable bartenders, including Erik H. from Tavern Law.  They also have some food -- pizza, steaks, salads -- but these are ancillary.

The new place is called "Pine Box," in a nod to both the history of the building and the location on Pine Street.  The bar and various furniture items are made from old cabinets used to store funeral urns and the booths are made of old pews. It is can't-miss for beer-lovers, and a high recommendation for anyone who likes interesting bars. Roberts' described the change from the previous occupants to Seattle Beer News in a way that seems spot on to me:

“If you’ve ever been into the old Chapel space you’ve been to the closest thing to a German disco this side of the Rhine. We’re purging that feeling as we rid the space of lasers, bubble machines, and giant white pleather couches. We want to bring the original charm of the historic 1920′s building back, while adding a bunch of kick-ass beer in the process.” (seattlebeernews



1600 Melrose Avenue Seattle, WA 98122 - (206) 588-0375
Est. March 26, 2012 - Building constructed: 1923
Previous bars in this location: The Chapel
Web site: pineboxbar.com - facebook
Reviews: seattlebeernews - seattletimes - seattlemet - capitolhillseattle - thirstyinseattle - mynorthwest - seattleweekly - thestranger - ratebeer - yelp

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