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Bars where Pete has had a drink

Sunday, April 30, 2017

#2516 - Waterfront Tavern, Bellingham, WA - 5/11/2014

The Waterfront Tavern, Bellingham, WA

Bellingham's venerable Waterfront Tavern has a reputation for fish and chips, being the last remaining Old Town building on pilings, and as the watering hole of choice for serial killers. Ted Bundy, the Hillside Strangler, and the Beltway Sniper are all said to have downed some cold ones here before being arrested -- and that's not even to count James A. Kinney, a relative slacker in the murder business, whose single victim was found just off the Mount Baker Highway. It's almost surprising that the regulars are not said to include Green River Killer Gary Ridgeway, given that he once worked in Bellingham, and included a Bellingham native among his 90 known victims.

As he seemingly always is, Bundy was described by patrons as charming when he was said to visit the bar in the mid 70s, that is, right around the time he began a killing spreed that included an admitted 30 victims, and suspicion of perhaps 100 or more. There is little evidence to tie Bundy to the area, but Bundy's victims were spread around Washington state and among several western states before his escape to Florida, including women he met at Dante's in Seattle and The Flame in Burien.

On the other hand, while it is not clear that he actually frequented the Waterfront, Bianchi made sure no one would forget his presence in Bellingham when he raped and murdered a Western Washington University student he met while working as a security guard at the Lakeway Drive Fred Meyer, along with her roomate. After his arrest by Bellingham police, Bianchi eventually confessed to commiting, with his cousin Angelo Buono, 10 murders in Los Angeles that dubbed him the Hillside Strangler.

The Waterfront Tavern, Bellingham, WA
While the connections of Bundy and Bianchi to the Waterfront may be simply some tall tales of a few of the patrons (klipsun), the Waterfront patronage of James Kinney and John Allen Muhammad is much more firmly established. Kinney was known by regulars to suffer from mental illness before he murdered a visiting 20-year-old young woman and was eventually caught with the aid of the television program "America's Most Wanted."

Along with co-conspirator Lee Boyd Malvo, John Muhammad lived in the Lighthouse Mission, a 4-minute walk up W. Holly Street from the tavern. He was described to the New York Times and other sources as being polite but often belligerent, making no effort to warm to other regulars or hide his positive views of the 9/11 attacks, in between sipping Budweisers and watching "The Price is Right" and ESPN. In 2002, Muhammad and Malvo would leave Bellingham to murder 17 people and injure 10 more in sniper-style shootings in Washington D.C. and across the east coast, motivated by a desire to throw off suspicion for killing his ex-wife, and/or some kind of jihad, claiming inspirations from Osama bin Laden to characters from "The Matrix."

The Waterfront Tavern, Bellingham, WA
With that hoary history associated with it -- including being named the roughest bar in America by Esquire Magazine 2003 -- it may be almost anti-climatic to amble in to the quaint fish and chips shack extending over Bellingham Bay. Sure it can maintain a certain edginess while hosting punk bands on weekend nights, but most of the time it is a comfortable joint for locals, eating seafood, burgers or fried chicken and sipping Bud Lights or Fireball shots before the nightly Texas Holdem games.

It is, as mentioned, the lone survivor of the buildings on pilings here in "Old Town," established as "Whatcom" before the four area towns were merged. "It was this sort of maritime community that we really don’t just conceive of anymore, there’s almost no vestige of it, besides the tavern," Whatcom Museum curator Richard Vanderway told the Bellingham Herald. "Before Roeder Avenue was built, boats would dock at the lower level, and patrons would enter through a trap door. Once upstairs, they could get a drink at the bar or a quick trim at the barbershop (now the kitchen)," notes Teresa Schmidt.

A sign on the roof says "1910," and some locals will tell you that's when the bar was founded, but it has only clearly hosted a bar since shortly after prohibition, and became the "Waterfront" Tavern in the late 40s. The building apparently started out in 1911 hosting two businesses, including the Keith and McDowell restaurant, and hosting various sorts of shops in the following years. The Marine Tavern appears to have been opened here in 1935 by Rudolph Mastny, and after a few vacant years in the mid 40s, it is reopened as the Waterfront Tavern by Edward and Jacob Kammerzell in 1947. (Jim Talbot)

The bar has some high spirits and friendly locals with, as we have documented, some stories to tell. The food, the beer, and the cocktails at the Waterfront are fairly pedestrian neighborhood bar fare, but if the waterfront setting, the established history, and even the dubious legends are not enough to entice you in, we must have very disparate tastes in bars.

521 W Holly St, Bellingham, WA 98225 - (360) 676-1755
Est. 1947 - Building constructed: 1911
Previous bars in this location: Marine Tavern
Web site: waterfrontseafoodandbar.comfacebook
Articles ranked: bellinghamherald - nytimes - jimtalbot - sidebars - - klipsun - sfgate -  tripadvisor - bellinghamdailyphoto

#2515 - Horseshoe Cafe, Bellingham, WA - 5/11/2014

Horseshoe Cafe & Ranch Room, Bellingham, WA
The Horseshoe Cafe in Bellingham has been in its current location since 1958. However, it traces its history under that name through previous locations since 1886. The Horseshoe claims it is Washington's longest continuously operating cafe and cocktail lounge, and it may be in some sense, as this requires a peculiar interpretation of "continuously," at least from the bar perspective. Whatcom County voted itself dry by 1910. (The Horseshoe claims to have received the first post-prohibition bar license in the county in 1950, but since city directories list many beer parlors in the city shortly after federal prohibition, I wonder if this is not a reference to selling spirits by the glass, legalized in Washington state, with restrictions, in 1948.) It is also unclear whether the Horseshoe was actually a bar in 1886 or just a diner (along with cigar shop and fishing and hunting supplies). And the history of  the Horseshoe before moving to 113 E Holly is a bit convoluted. I have found "Horse Shoe" bars listed at 102 E Holly in 1903, at 914 Harris Ave in 1905, and at 106 E Holly in 1909.

Horseshoe Cafe, Bellingham, 1950s
You can judge for yourself whether or not one should overlook prohibition years and allow a claim to a "continuously" operating bar that admits a 40 year gap, and whether keeping some basic version of one name should be required to count as one bar. But in any case the Horseshoe does appear to be Washington's states longest running bar business under one name, and may be the oldest running restaurant and/or bar business under one name.

There were also bars in this location long before Long before the Horseshoe moved in there were bars in this location. The Oxford Bar is listed here by 1903 and appears to have remained in operation until local option prohibition took effect in Bellingham Jan 1, 1911.

In 2015 the Horseshoe was remodeled under new ownership. While the menu was upgraded and the dining room half revamped, there were thankfully few changes to the pleasantly dark "Ranch Room," with it's knotty pine, aging cowbow murals, and 50s western decor, hosting a mix of old geezers and hipsters. There's nothing fancy, at least once you pass the substantial neon sign, but it's a very agreeable stop for travelers and fine old regular joint for locals.

Photo hanging in the current Horseshoe Cafe
113 E Holly St, Bellingham, WA 98225 - (360) 734-0380
Est. 1958 (this location), 1886 elsewhere
Previous bars in this location: Oxford Bar
Web site: - facebook 
Articles ranked: bellinghamherald - onlyinyourstate - bellinghamreviews - thecrossingguide - seattlerefined - yelp - tripadvisor

Saturday, April 08, 2017

#2514 - Alger Bar and Grille, Alger, WA - 5/11/2014

Alger Bar and Grille, Alger, WA
The Alger Bar is at the main crossroad at the south end of this unincorporated community of about 400, just across the old highway from the Whispering Firs Motel and north of the Little Treasures Pygmies goat ranch. I don't know how old the Alger Bar is, but it appears that a restaurant has operated here since 1933. The building was constructed in 1915, though no vestiges of such age are readily available to the naked eye. It feels more like a rural cafe than a dive bar, which light pouring through the windows in the day and serving up the sort of food you'd expect from a rural, roadside diner.

But like any location this old, it has its ghosts, and we got a few of the stories from friendly employees Felicia and Janna. They told us that Steve the owner will not have ghost investigators in ("He doesn't want the evidence"), but that there were many, many stories of spirits rattling pans and throwing pennies. The told us that one beer delivery man was so spooked by two ghosts he say in the basement that he quit his job to avoid having to go back down.

It's not a place you'll run into accidentally. But if you need a break about half way on your trip from Seattle to Vancouver BC, it's a short turn off I5 to the ghosts of Alger.

1758 Old Highway 99 N, Bellingham, WA 98229 - (360) 724-3291
Est. 1933 (at least as a restaurant) - Building constructed: 1915
Previous bars in this location: None known
Web site: facebook
Reviews: yelp - tripadvisor

#2513 #S1246 - Elysian Bar, Seattle - 5/5/2014

Update: This location of Elysian closed in 2018.

The Elysian Bar was an unexpected departure for the craft brewery operating four brewpubs around town, a large part of the Seattle craft brewing scene since the mid 90s, before selling out to Anheuser-Busch in 2015. (With the sale, the company that once distributed beer with labels reading "Corporate Beer Still Sucks," no longer qualifies as a "craft brewery" as per the Brewery Association.)

The previous bars were pretty typical brewpubs, with lots of nice beer choices and modern pub foods. But this space, resplendent in brick, wood, curving seats and a large spiral staircase, has a more elegant vibe and a more formal menu. It also emphasizes cocktails, with no less than Murray Stenson manning the bar, in a program run by former Zig Zag owner Kacy Fitch and hiring additional well-regarded local bartenders Connor O'Brien, Adam Fream, Jason Diaz and Dennis Brand. The downtown location even includes a couple hefty doormen, whom one friend who lives very close appreciated for their work keeping the area free of some scary looking characters on her street.

And yet I'm not sure that the Elysian Bar is for me. The cocktails were quite nice, and I assume remain so, even though the peripatetic Stenson had soon moved on, along with most the other recognizable bartenders. The food is also fine and the setting relatively elegant, though not quite romantic. But for me it doesn't seem to have established a personality -- and it has a lot to live up to in that regard sitting in the space that once held the Art Bar and Noc Noc. Nevertheless I am much more comfortable in the old building than I am in shiny modernist settings, and if it is able to stick around for a few years -- and no Budweiser paraphernalia pops up -- perhaps I'll get to know it.

1516 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA 98101 - (206) 467-4458
Est. April 30, 2014 - Closed 2018 - Building constructed: 1906
Previous bars in this location: Art Bar, Noc Noc
Web site:
Articles ranked: cocktailwonkseattlemet - eater - seattlemag - seattletimes - zagatseattlemag - afaryelp - tripadvisor