by Kirby Lindsay
Text originally published August 8, 2008 in the North Seattle Herald-Outlook.Fremont has a grand tradition of drinking. From our beginnings, in the 1800s, when the lumbermen and millworkers labored here, local bars have been as important to community well-being as church and school.
Bars bring a community together. Rarely will a bar be singularly about imbibing adult beverages. In speaking with owners and managers of six modern Fremont bars it becomes apparent that their appeal expands far beyond the rim of the glass.
Fremont bars reflect a wild diversity. As Andy Kelleher, co-owner of The Dubliner (3517 Fremont Avenue North, est. 1992) said, “I can’t put a finger on” what makes the bars so different, “but it is what makes Fremont an attraction.”
As a place to gather and have fun, The Dubliner offers a variety of options. Andy mentioned Kareoke, Open Mic and College nights as diversions for weeknights. Weekends feature live music.
According to manager Tamara Rose, The Ballroom (456 N. 36th St., est. 2000) is almost two different bars. On weekdays, they have cards, cribbage and a trivia night and their trademark - pool. “Not too many places in Seattle have regulation tables,” Tamara explained. They have six regulation-sized tables. Then, late on Fridays and Saturdays, and some Thursdays, The Ballroom transforms into a nightclub, with a dance floor.
A few blocks away, The George & Dragon (206 North 36th Street, est. 1995) seldom offers live entertainment, according to co-owner John Bayliss. Instead, three different television reception systems bring in soccer, football and rugby games from all over the world.
At High Dive (513 North 36th Street, est. 2005), general manager Darren Mohr bragged, “we have one of the best sound systems!” They host “bands every night of the week. In essence, we’re a rock club,” he said, although “rock is so encompassing these days,” that the music varies widely.
The Buckaroo Tavern (4201 Fremont Avenue North) offers pool, pinball and video games, owner Donna Morey explained, but more than anything, Fremont’s oldest bar – established in 1938 – and most iconic is “not just a tavern. It’s my living room.”
Like the Buckaroo, Pacific Inn (3501 Stone Way North, est. circa 1960’s) offers hospitality and a place for locals to gather. Robert Julien bought Pacific Inn in 1991 and people come in for the atmosphere, he suggested they also may come for the food.
Pacific Inn offers high-quality food. “We’re the best fish and chips in town!” Robert bragged. The Ballroom also has a growing following for their enormous East Coast style pizzas.
The George & Dragon offers English pub food, including bangers and mash, for lunch, dinner…and breakfast. Game times dictate some World Cup followers will gather on the deck at the G&D to nosh English chips and watch the Turks play Italy at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning.
The Dubliner offers “pub grub,” according to Andy, including fish and chips, and burgers. Food at the High Dive – slider sandwiches, burgers, mac & cheese – is more on the light side, according to Darren.
“The neighborhood has made The Ballroom what it is,” Tamara suggested. Darren also mused that High Dive “wouldn’t be the same somewhere else.”
High Dive is “a destination spot,” Darren said, “because we have a different band every night.” Customers will come distances to hear their band play. However, Darren also looks for “more local stuff,” including a monthly belly dance performance by Delilah.
The Dubliner has “moved away from the Irish Pub image,” Andy admitted, and has become what he described as a “universal type bar.” Their wide variety of clientele changes nightly depending on the entertainment. “When we have a country band,” he explained, “we see a different crowd than on other nights.”
John and his partner opened the George & Dragon, their “typical English pub,” here 13 years ago. John has seen Fremont change considerably in that time. While he admitted he likes the changes, he understands those who miss the old. Ultimately, “it’s for the better,” he said, “there is a lot more going on. It’s a much busier place.” He likes that for his business, and its future. “I’m staying,” he said, “I’m not going anywhere.”
The Myth of a Single Neighborhood Bar
Once upon a time, shipyard workers made up most of the clientele at the Pacific Inn. Today Robert still sees the place as a workman’s bar, blue collar rather than trendy, and “at any one time I’ll know 70% if the clientele.”
The Buckaroo also has a collection of regulars that have informed Donna about happenings at the bar when she couldn’t be there. The community is so strong, Donna has hosted potluck dinners on Thanksgiving and Christmas so customers can celebrate with their Buckaroo ‘family.’
But the Buck and Pacific Inn haven’t cornered the market on neighborhood. All the owners and managers I spoke with described their establishments as ‘a neighborhood bar.’
It is possible they are all right. Fremont has long defied a narrow definition and perhaps the bars show that best of all. Maybe Fremont is not one small community but a dynamic collection of smaller communities that come together in a variety of combinations to enjoy refreshment, entertainment and a rousing good time!
- Fremont: Center of the Beer Universe, Too?
- by Kirby Lindsay, February 18, 2009 in The North Seattle Herald-Outlook
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.