BESIDES THE LOSS of a kind man and Jefferson Award winner for his work with the disabled, the death last week of longtime Seattle restaurateur Gordy Brock, 72, also severed one of the last living links to Seattle's infamous tolerance-policy days—when City Hall simply allowed crime to happen.
Final call for the last of the old-time tavern keepers.
In 1949, at age 21, Brock opened the Fremont Tavern (later the Red Door) and ran a number of places including a rough bar on Capitol Hill where the lights occasionally failed. "When they came back on, everyone would be pointing a gun at everyone else," he said. But it was the cops who worried him. Political bribery and kickbacks were the norm in midcentury Seattle, resulting in indictments but few convictions of cops and city officials in the 1970s. The racketeering, in part, involved cops shaking down bar owners such as Brock, who spent 52 years in the business. Also owner (with wife Sandee) of the Pike Place Bar & Grill, Brock was thought to be the last of the old-time tavern keepers still in the business.
"The beat cops were bagmen, and I mean that literally," Brock once said. "Every week, I put a paper bag on the bar. The beat guy comes in, sits down, has coffee, picks up the bag [with $100 cash] and says goodbye. In return, I don't get busted for code or liquor violations." His bagman was never indicted, Brock added; got full city retirement; and hung around his bar for years afterwards, trying to mooch drinks. It was some solace that post-tolerance mayor Wes Uhlman showed up to cut the ribbon at Brock's renovated Pike Market grill years later. "Still," Brock recalled, "I wanted to ask him for my money back."