Mark Kaufman

In July 2007, citing safety and legal concerns, Mayor Greg Nickels released a list of eight problem clubs. Just two months later, the Seattle Police Department and City Attorney Tom

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Carr's office orchestrated a series of raids on many of those same bars and clubs, arresting 17 employees for alleged liquor-law violations in an attempt to drum up support for the mayor's controversial nightlife-license proposal.

While the mayor's list skewed toward bars and clubs in places like Belltown and Pioneer Square, data on drunk-driving charges in Seattle shows that the real "problem" clubs (those associated with the most charges of driving under the influence) aren't even on the city's radar.

According to Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) records obtained by The Stranger, dangerous drunk drivers are far more likely to stumble out of places like Rock Salt (in South Lake Union) and Ozzie's (in lower Queen Anne) than from "problem" bars like Wild Palms, Tiki Bob's, and Venom.

In Washington State, when a drunk driver gets pulled over and arrested, police conduct an interview and try to find out, among other things, where the person has been drinking. Law enforcement then forwards that information on to the WSLCB. According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, there were 65 alcohol-related traffic deaths in Seattle between 2003 and 2007, and 223 in King County.

Liquor board data shows that in the last two and a half years, 23 drunk drivers have been pulled over after leaving Ozzie's. One had a blood alcohol level of 0.233, nearly three times the legal limit. Ozzie's has also received citations for disorderly conduct and for selling liquor to a minor. Nonetheless, it didn't make the mayor's list.

Rock Salt and Jillian's, both in South Lake Union, racked up 22 and 26 DUIs, respectively. Another 10 drunk drivers came from the swank El Gaucho steak house. None of these bars were on the mayor's list. In that same time period, Wild Palms, which was part of the mayor's crackdown, had three DUIs.

Also not on the mayor's list: big sports arenas like Safeco Field, Qwest Field, and KeyArena. Since 2006, 45 people have been arrested for drunk driving after leaving Safeco; 40 have come from Qwest; and 21 have come from KeyArena. Qwest Field has also received three violations for selling alcohol to a minor, and another for selling to an intoxicated person.

While the liquor board's data-collection method is far from scientific, SPD spokesman Jeff Kappel matter-of-factly points out that drunk drivers generally have "no reason to lie" about where they've been drinking.

Although WSLCB doesn't write citations based on the number of DUIs associated with a bar, they do contact licensees who've had a high number of incidents. "If they're coming up on the list a lot, [we're] visiting [those] establishments," says WSLCB spokeswoman Susan Reams. However, Reams says, the data is only used as "an educational [tool]."

Bars and restaurants contacted by The Stranger seemed surprised at the high number of DUIs reportedly linked to their businesses. A bartender at Ozzie's says employees use patrons' bills to keep track of how much they've been drinking, but that waiters don't necessarily check to see if individual patrons are drunk. A staff member at El Gaucho says the number of DUIs associated with the restaurant surprised her and says the staff usually offers to get patrons a hotel room or call them a cab if they appear intoxicated. Management at Qwest and Safeco fields did not return calls for comment.

Nickels spokesman Alex Fryer says the mayor's initial list was composed using data from the liquor control board and other city departments. However, Fryer did not say whether Nickels's list took DUIs into account. In an e-mail, Fryer said that "there have been emphasis patrols at the sports stadiums, and [the city] continue[s] to monitor these and other establishments to stay ahead of problems." recommended

jonah@thestranger.com