Food & Drink

Bar Exam

The Comet: Now Even Drunker!

The Comet's been doing a very fine job of getting people very drunk since 1948. In one of very few changes made by new ownership, the bar now offers hard liquor along with beer (and, presumably, wine that no one in the history of time has ever ordered). This addition and its concurrent promise of increased Comet-style chaos might be called an improvement, if it were possible to improve upon an institution like the Comet.

The other innovation of note, besides the booking of more/better/different bands: happy hour, as advertised on Capitol Hill's telephone poles ("THE COMET HAS BOOZE / HAPPY HOUR 3–7"). The promotion's impact seems negligible at 6:00 p.m. on a recent evening; the crowd consists of 13 guys and me, the atmosphere is low-key. The sparse selection of booze on utilitarian tiered shelves behind the bar is more about what they've got than what you want. When asked about happy hour, the bartender—genial, tattooed—says they're doing it "frontier style," just knocking a few bucks off orders.

A frontier-style drink dislodges a memory of the Frontier Room in Belltown, back when it was a place your mother wouldn't want you to go. (The memory: A particularly blond friend chirped a request for a "special drink" in honor of my 21st birthday, to which the infamous bartendress growled, "I'll make her a drink that'll make her nipples hard.") Frontier-style happy hour inspires the telling of similar tales set at the Comet. (Slam dancing on a hot summer night amid showers of launched beers to the band Steaming Wolf Penis, the drummer wearing a huge monster costume; being French-kissed sans introduction by the drunkest stranger ever, then making the acquaintance of the drunkest stranger ever's date, the second-drunkest and most-pissed-off stranger ever.)

Meanwhile, in a development that might seem surprising for the Comet if anything were surprising for the Comet, the male-to-female ratio is altered by the addition of an eminently respectable-looking older woman, greeted with a hug by a man who looks to be a regular; with her blond perm, tender look, glasses, and crucifix, she is unmistakably his mother. A photograph commemorates her visit.

Unlike the Frontier Room, tragically turned into an upscale barbecue place and never heard from since, the Comet is only getting better, by way of staying nearly exactly the same. The very high ceiling still has many dollar bills and playing cards stuck to it (magic I've heard not very convincingly explained by use of a quarter for ballast and chewing gum for adhesive). The barstools are still tattered. The floor of the women's room still has two footprint outlines worn through the linoleum in front of each toilet, and the walls are still covered in graffiti demonstrating a wide range of philosophical outlooks and spelling aptitude. And the Comet still has its nickname, which, surely, the addition of hard liquor will serve to reinforce.

bethany@thestranger.com

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