After a months-long investigation by the Seattle Police Department, the city is attempting to shut down Lake City bar owned by a former federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officer.
The Rose Garden—located at NE 137th St and Lake City Way—has, according to a letter from the Seattle Police Department and City Attorney Tom Carr’s office, become the source of “a pervasive pattern of activity that threatens the public health, safety and welfare of the city.” Last week, Carr’s office filed an objection to the renewal of the Rose Garden’s liquor license.
According to documents provided by the city, the Rose Garden—which sits on the edge of the North Seattle neighborhood known to area residents and police as “Little Beirut”—there were ten violent incidents at the bar in the first nine months of 2008.
In 2008, police responded to multiple reports of fights at the bar, including one fight in which a bouncer was stabbed. In another incident in February 2008, a patron who was ejected from the Rose Garden allegedly came back later carrying an ax.
Undercover narcotics officers also repeatedly visited the bar, purchasing crack cocaine from customers as well as one man who claimed to be an employee of the bar. That man reportedly told officers he “controlled the criminal activity inside and outside the tavern” and “was the person to see for drugs.”
The city’s letter to the Washington State Liquor Control Board objecting to the Rose Garden’s license renewal alleges that the bar sold untaxed cigarettes.
When confronted by the city with allegations of rampant drug dealing at the bar, the Rose Garden’s owners, Chun Chavarria and Salvador Chavarria Jr. (the former DEA agent) told police they’d heard about the undercover operations, but were unaware of any drug dealing going on at the bar.
However, assistant city attorney Ed McKenna says that “the community had been complaining [about the Rose Garden] for quite a while.
“I think it’s a pretty blatant case,” McKenna continues. “You have an owner of a business who is a retired drug enforcement agent who claims to have recognized when undercover officers were on the premises but not known” that drug dealing was happening. McKenna says undercover officers went to the bar “five or six times” and were able to purchase narcotics every time. “When you have a 100 percent buy rate, that’s pretty bad,” McKenna says.
Neighbors consider the Rose Garden to be a hub of criminal activity in the Little Beirut neighborhood. The bar’s dank interior—which still has a lingering smell from the pre-smoking-ban days—is filled with pool and foosball tables, and is mostly lit with aging neon beer signs. A strange collection of stuffed animals sits in a dark corner at the back of the bar. A sign above the bathrooms emphatically states “one at a time” while another above the bar’s back door—where one patron was beaten and robbed last May—states that patrons “must” purchase something to be allowed on the bar’s back deck.
One Lake City resident—who asked not be named because of fears of violent retaliation by the bar’s regulars—says he became familiar with the Rose Garden over the last year, regularly accompanying a friend when she visited the bar to buy crack.
“You want crack, you want prostitution, go there,” the man says. He adds that the bar is a destination for addicts from as far away as Lynnwood and Everett. “[I had] a friend that unfortunately liked that rock stuff. I said, ‘let me go with you’ [to the Rose Garden]. It’s a lousy place for a woman to be.”
The man says he often sat with his friend at the bar for hours, waiting for dealers with names like Tut, Just, Pooh and Baby Girl who occasionally would “dab,” or rip off, his companion. Last time the man was at the bar, he says, someone threatened to shoot him. He hasn’t been back since.
Another Lake City resident, Angela Boykins—who has been part of an effort to unite community groups in the area—has been to the Rose Garden several times. And while she says has never personally been accosted or witnessed any violent crimes, she believes the bar is “perceived as dangerous” and that it “wouldn’t be horrible if it was gone.”
The Rose Garden’s owners, the Chavirras, did not respond to a request for comment.