Photo by Kelly O

Ben Verellen’s New “Disneyland-Style” Bar Is Open For Business

The Helms Alee frontman and Verellen amplifier mastermind is venturing into the world of booze with style.

Seattle music fans have probably heard of Ben Verellen either for his sludgy shredding in local rock trio Helms Alee, or for his beastly Verellen brand of boutique custom amps, which he crafts out of his workshop in Fremont. Now he’s adding another title to his resume—bar owner.

Last week he opened Bar House (503 N. 36th St.), located in the space just above his workshop. After an Evan Jones investment office vacated the space, landlords offered it up to Verellen as a potential shop expansion or a physical retail space for his amps. “I thought that might be kind of risky, but then I thought, ‘well, wait a minute, people drink pretty consistently, why not a bar?” Verellen says. “I’m kind of a Disneyland fanatic, so once I had the bar idea, all these other ideas started flowing about the quirked-out silly effects we could put in.”

The Disneyland connection is no joke. During last year’s National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) conference in Anaheim—a music gear trade show—Verellen says he “spent way more time at Disneyland studying how they pull off all their effects on those old rides than at NAMM.” Bar House bears the fruits of that research. Although the bar space is small, 49 people at max occupancy, there are indeed a number of elaborate themed rooms for patrons to explore. Most notable—the forest room, featuring black lights, a fiber optic night sky, fog haze, a fake campfire, cricket sounds, and “some badass fake trees Dana James from Helms Alee made.” Even the bathroom gets the Disneyland treatment, fashioned to look like you’re inside a submarine. “We arched out the ceilings so it’s like you’re in a tube,” Verellen says, “then there’s little sonar pings and bubble sounds and a porthole we put a screen behind that plays underwater scenes.”

But beyond the theme park flourishes, the bar will truly be a Verellen product for those familiar with his amps—featuring “Qbert style stained wood flooring” and “an electrocuted wood bar and table tops” crafted by the same carpenter responsible for Verellen amplifiers’ distinct aesthetic. The walls will also feature Verellen made art. “I started painting a couple years ago because I would watch Bob Ross to chill out at the end of the night,” Verellen says. “So I finally just bought the Bob Ross painting kit after watching probably 300 episodes, and did a whole bunch of landscapes. I just had them laying around, so I figured—fuck it—we’ll just use those for the bar.”

ksears@seattleweekly.com