The unarguably brilliant idea to hook a bar crawl and beer garden to this weekend's Dragon Fest as a way of enticing visitors to extend their stays in the International District has provoked some skepticism from wary neighborhood residents.
"There's a little bit of hesitation, so we're trying to be careful," says Travis Suzaka of the Hokubei Hochi Foundation, which is hosting the Japanese-style beer garden as a fundraiser for its newspaper, The North American Post.
The garden - complete with lanterns, servers outfitted in summer kimonos, and vendors selling snacks such as yakitori and octopus balls - will be set up in the former Uwajimaya parking lot at the corner of South King Street and Fifth Avenue. "Across the street, there's that tavern with homeless people and not the best atmosphere," Suzaka says, explaining fears that the availability of alcohol will cause unsavory elements to spill over to the annual festival, a family-oriented event sponsored by McDonald's.
But Suzaka believes the beer garden is completely compatible with the festival, which is designed to showcase Asian culture in the Pacific Northwest. "We're excited," he says. "It'll be fun. Hopefully it will be a success."
The 4 p.m.-10 p.m. bar crawl overlaps with the popular $2 ID Food Walk, which runs from 12 noon-8 p.m. on Saturday and 12 noon-6 p.m. on Sunday, same as the beer garden. The Food Walk menu lists 60 items from dozens of restaurants, including mango pudding at Honey Court; rice noodles at Henry's Taiwan Plus; a three ham sandwich at Sun Bakery and a brioche fromage at Fuji Bakery.
Blakeney says most of the participating bars haven't yet settled on their featured drinks, but Suzaka says the beer's ready for the garden. Asked if there will be Japanese brews on tap, he says, "Actually, no. Even better: Local beer from Manny's."