My best-selling novella, Seattle's Best Dive Bars: Drinking & Diving in the Emerald City, was published in 2009. It included vignettes on some 100 dive bars in or very near to Seattle. Since the book was published, 15 of these bars have closed their doors (some have reopened with new names, owners, concepts, and heightened hygiene levels). On St. Patrick's Day, West Seattle's Alki Tavern will become the 16th bar to join this woebegone flock, and if ever there were cause to cry in your beer--and at the Alki Tavern, that's all there is to cry in--the shuttering of the biker bar with the billion-dollar view is it.
It's getting increasingly difficult in modern-day Seattle to doucheproof a bar. But the Alki's formula is about as fail-safe as they come. First, eschew hard liquor, serving only good beer and shitty wine. Second, limit your food menu to cheap, basic (and delicious) tacos and burgers. Third, Top 40-proof your jukebox. Fourth, have no outdoor seating and only peekaboo windows, even though your bar would boast arguably the best view in all of Seattle were you to decide to open things up a little. Fifth, cultivate a reputation as a biker bar, even if your prime Harley depot days have long since passed. And sixth, situate yourself in West Seattle, which might as well be Anchorage to the sort of nighthawks who flood Belltown and Ballard every Friday.
The irony of the Alki's imminent closure is that, when you look at the sort of bars Linda Derschang and others attempting to nurture a vibe of bottled rusticity are opening, they all aspire to the sort of authenticity that the Alki has to burn. This might annoy purists, but Seattle is better off if even a sliver of the Alki's DNA lives on in more polished watering holes. Their alcoholics might never be Alkiholics, but at least they'll be metaphysically linked to their forerunners by urinals filled with ice.