The Lobo was the kind of dive bar where the music would seem to stop when you walked in. All the regulars—and they all seemed to be regulars—would slowly swivel their heads, fixing you with an array of looks ranging from indifferent to vaguely hostile. If you chose to stick it out, you might count yourself lucky to be served a cheap beer and then ignored. My sole experience at the Lobo involved a welcoming/hazing that included the eventual emergence of the bartender from behind the bar wearing a frilly apron over his pants. This apron eventually was lifted to reveal an oversized set of male genitalia crafted out of a stuffed pair of old pantyhose.
The Lobo smelled deeply like smoke, stale and new. The smoking ban reportedly allowed a new smell to emerge, near the bathrooms: sewage. I also hear the Lobo had a horseshoe-shaped bar and a Pabst clock darkened by all that smoky time. The apron incident blotted out the particulars of the place, which weren't all that particular: The Lobo was the kind of dive bar that looks and smells like all other dive bars, the kind that's an endangered species in Seattle, particularly amid the gentrification of South Lake Union.
The Lobo's sign, depicting a wolf howling at the moon, was recently replaced with a stylized drawing of a torch, the Lobo replaced by the Victory Lounge, the beast vanquished by the light. Beneath the new sign, the deck has new blue umbrellas bearing the logo of Peroni, a beer imported from Italy that wouldn't have been caught dead at the Lobo. Inside, the thoroughgoing remodel instantaneously deletes what went before—even those whose visits to the Lobo were unscarred by gag aprons can't remember anything about it. Was there carpet? Now the floors are glossy dark wood. A flat-screen television, its picture preternaturally high-definition, bathes those at the bar in an unhealthy glow. The renovation's entirely pleasant, indistinctive. Victory's a place for condo-dweller cocktails rather than cans of Olympia, though both are available. The volume on the jukebox pretty much precludes conversation, and the music's all over the place: Moby, AC/DC, Hall and Oates, rap with not-safe-for-radio lyrics. The menu's mid-identity crisis: panini sandwiches with fancy ingredients served atop baby greens; hot dogs; chili. At the far end of the bar, near the panini grill, the chili reserves stand on a shelf: two giant cans of Stagg.
The current bartender—curly haired, lovely, funny, no apron—says the landlord doubled the rent; the management is the same, adapting to survive. Having made the transition herself, she's philosophical. (The bathrooms before: "Gnarly.") If the Victory seems confused by its own transformation, the Power Hour is a straightforward affair: all drinks half price from 10:00 to 11:00 p.m. every night. Those in attendance know what to do: upgrade from well liquor and/or drink twice as much.
Victory Lounge, 433 Eastlake Ave E, 382-4467