Outside the Showbox Sodo, a whiteboard propped on an easel advertises the simple, singular, yet sweeping virtue of "SEATTLE'S MOST RIDICULOUS HAPPY HOUR EVER": half-off everything. Examples with exclamation marks assist in wrapping your mind around the possibilities, suggesting an exciting and/or alarming binge that you can't afford not to go on: Beer! Pizza! Calamari! Tequila! Chicken wings! It's all half-off, but not all the time: The ridiculousness lasts for this inaugural month, Tuesday through Sunday, 4:30 to 8:00 p.m., only. The days the Pogues play, October 17 and 18, are excluded, as are Seahawks game days, when the place will become a heaven-or-hell 24,000-square-foot tailgate party starting at 9:30 a.m.
You may know the Showbox Sodo from its days as the Premiere, an obscure venue for the occasional political fundraiser and random DJs. Then, also obscurely, the Fenix Underground moved in, promptly going bankrupt. The days of obscurity are numbered; the space will now host shows too big for the original Showbox. The cavernous stage side of the Sodo building, visible from the lounge through glass garage doors, holds 2,000 people. A maze of waist-high fencing awaits to corral the underage away from the alcohol. (The downtown Showbox, with its multilevel layout and deco-accented pillars, looks grander but only holds 1,200.)
The lounge's salient decorative feature is an enormous chandelier with 12 concentric rings of crystals. Its sparkling glamour stands in contrast to exposed vents and beams, as well as to a large happy-hour party in athletic gear equipped with oversize cans of PBR. This party is 36 athletic-types strong, 12 of them wearing baseball caps, half of those with their caps backward. Each new athletic-type who arrives is greeted by a collective roar that includes howling and, usually, booing. The entrance of one man who appears to match the crowd goes unheralded; he is like them but not of them, and he sits alone, eating "The Magic Mushroom" pizza—béchamel sauce, mushrooms, caramelized onion, fontina, and Parmesan, $6 at half-off prices, too big for one person. (It's the bartender's favorite, she says: "I'm not just saying this because I work here—the food is awesome.") While eating, he reads Freakonomics.
The capped-to-bareheaded ratio remains stable as the party grows. This enthusiastic collective, it emerges, contains the employees of the Seattle Mariners. They're enjoying refreshments after the postseason tradition in which they themselves get to play on Safeco's majestic green field. The mood is celebratory in only a perfunctory way; underneath lies the sorrow of yet another ending, the games unwon, the autumn darkening of the soul.
Showbox Sodo, 1700 First Ave S, 652-0444